Cox tries ad-supported free VOD


"Video-on-demand," "interactive" and "free" are not usually found in combination, but
thanks to some nontraditional advertising, Cox Communications Inc. is doing just
that with its trial launch of "FreeZone" in San Diego.

Digital-cable subscribers will receive an ad-supported on-demand channel
(channel 997, to be exact) that combines entertainment content with an
interactive-advertising element (courtesy of N2 Broadband) that allows viewers
to contact advertisers and vice versa.

The channel will allow for ads unconstrained by the normal 30- or 60-second
spot, Cox said. "The on-demand content may be long-format or alternatively what
some call 'advertainment,' highly entertaining videos featuring products," the MSO said in a release. "We are poised to prove that consumers will not only watch
commercial-supported information and long-format advertising, but choose to do
so with premeditation," said Billy Farina, vice president of advertising sales
for Cox's CableRep Advertising. Among those signed on to the test are Coca-Cola Co. and Sony Electronics Corp.

The two-way-street of interactivity means the channel will allow for
follow-up contact by advertisers. Does that mean vinyl-siding salespeople
interrupting your dinnertime TV viewing? Not unless you want them to, the
company said: "Cox has taken great care to safeguard the privacy of its subscribers.
The permission-based direct-response component involves a double-opt-in

Mitch Oscar, senior VP of UM Futures, which represents Coke and
Sony, sounded appropriately enthusiastic in a Cox-released quote: "Our
collaborative work with Cox in the FreeZone provides UM and its clients with a
living laboratory that will enable us to glean valuable insight into consumer
reaction to the evolving on-demand and interactive-television universe, while
developing and testing new models for advertiser-supported home entertainment."

Cox is teaming up with N2 and Concurrent Computer Corp. on the