OnScreen Summit: Wilson: Cox Continues Focus On My Primetime VOD Platform

Operator Would Be 'Fast-Follower' To TV Everywhere

For Bob Wilson, senior vice president of programming Cox Communications, television is still about the small screen, rather than the computer screen.

Citing statistics indicating that 98% of viewing still takes place on TV, Wilson said Cox will continue to invest its attention on "TV Anytime," rather than "TV Everywhere" models that are consuming much of the industry's focus these days.
Wilson, speaking at the second annual Broadcasting Cable/Multichannel News OnScreen Summit here Wednesday, said Cox is "listening to the TV Everywhere discussions," but isn't inclined at the moment to expend a lot of resources there. He hedged that position by noting that "if we have to react, we will be fast-followers.

Rather, Cox remains invested in its My Primetime video on demand platform, which gives the operator's digital subscribers access to 50-60 shows from 20 networks for up to five weeks, following their linear debuts. As such, up to 250 episodes are available for screening, with subscribers unable to fast-forward through the commercials.

Initially, Cox thought that disabling that function was going to be an impediment for the service, but Wilson said subscribers quickly recognized that in order to gain access anytime to this fare, it was a trade-off they were going to have to accept.
He said that's been a boon for programmers -- especially those with top shows as 95% of Cox's VOD viewing comes from 30%-35% of the content -- and marketers.

Not only is there incremental viewing, but subscribers are taking in the commercials, especially when compared to digital video recording proponents, who skip 40% to 75% of the ads, according to Wilson.
Wilson said Cox is currently looking to take the next step with the platform through dynamic ad insertion. The operator has already conducted a couple of successful trials and is now evaluating the costs involved from equipment, traffic and management perspectives. "We want to understand the back-office aspects and the scalability," he said.

Led in the discussion by MCN editor in chief Mark Robichaux, who along with MCN/B&C group publisher Larry Dunn presented the executive with MCN's "operator of the year" award to Cox, Wilson concluded the one-on-one interview by addressing the subject of video margin erosion. He said it has become more difficult to maintain profit margin with the product, given rising programming and operators being able to pass on just 2% to 3% price increases to consumers.

He pointed to "significant changes in costs that happen every now and again," alluding somewhat ominously toward Dec. 31 and the "latest round of discussions."
Asked about the impact of Verizon FiOS, Wilson said the telco is a significant threat in a couple of the operator's key markets. Although Verizon continues to add lots of new content, Wilson said Cox will not be drawn into that game and plans to remain diligent in assessing the viability of new networks.

He said the set-top data Cox evaluates indicates that a lot of programming is just not being viewed. We want the content to meaningful to consumers."