Following a series of fits and starts and well-publicized trials like Time Warner's Full Service Network in Orlando, video-on-demand (VOD) finally appears ready to erupt as the cable industry moves further into 2000 and beyond.

That time couldn't get here soon enough for the domestic cable industry, which continues to lose market share to orbital competitors like DirecTV and EchoStar, and which is fighting a bloody battle on the ground with a legion of overbuilders.

Though a DBS-enabled VOD service remains a technology question, overbuilders, which are stringing together their own high-capacity, advanced service networks, will likely surface as a more-than-viable competitor to the cable industry when it comes to VOD.

Faced with those trying conditions, several top MSOs, including Time Warner Cable, Insight Communications and Cox Communications, are ramping up their VOD plans—a visible indication that the promise of VOD is on the verge of being kept.

Or, as Metod Lebar, the transmission systems director for Oceanic Cable in Hawaii, tells it, VOD is real today. Launched to all subscribers in January 2000, Oceanic's aggressive foray into VOD now supports about 50,000 digital set-tops, with hundreds more being installed each week. Lebar's case study (pg. 42) covers all aspects of preparing and deploying VOD—everything from selecting equipment to architecting the network.

Of course, it's not just the cable operators that are talking up video-on-demand. VOD equipment and service vendors, which are profiled in the following story, believe that 2001 will be THE YEAR for VOD. In fact, most of VOD's equipment market share will be determined within the next 18 months, believes Steve Nussrallah, Concurrent Computer Corp.'s president and CEO.

Finally, TVN Entertainment Corp.'s Dom Stasi explains how satellites can reduce costs and enhance reliability for VOD.

Cable is definitely turning up the VOD heat several notches. Moving forward, it looks like more starts than fits are on cable's video-on-demand horizon.