Charter Communications, which recently agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $55 billion, shows how it may be able to drive increased video-on-demand revenue by allowing consumers to create personalized user interfaces containing content from multiple networks.
Abstract: A method and apparatus for providing subscription-on-demand (SOD) services for a interactive information distribution system, where a consumer may subscribe to packages of on-demand programs for a single price and view the programs in the subscribed package at any time for no additional cost. The apparatus and method are embodied in a combination of software, which provides a so called navigator, and hardware, including a subscriber terminal that provides certain functionality for the navigator and service provider equipment that supports the functionality of the terminal. As such, graphical user interface functionality is distributed between the service provider equipment and subscriber equipment (subscriber terminal). Such distribution provides an enjoyable, real time interactive process for accessing SOD services that allows the subscriber to rapidly identify and access a subscription service. In addition, a non-subscriber of a particular service is quickly identified and provided the opportunity to, through the use of a graphical user interface, subscribe to the programming provided by the system.
 Using the inventive equipment, a consumer is capable of further subscribing to packages of on-demand programming, i.e., SOD services, through manipulation of the graphical user interface. The system provides certain packages of on-demand programming, i.e., childrens programming, that a consumer may elect to subscribe to for a single price. As such, through manipulation of the menus, the consumer selects a programming package, becomes a subscriber to that package and is billed accordingly. Thereafter, the subscriber may view any program in the package without additional cost. Although predefined programming packages are generally available for selection, a consumer may optionally create a personal SOD service by selecting programs for a personal package that can then be subscribed to as any other programming package.
 Consequently, the invention differs from the prior art from both an architectural standpoint and data management standpoint. Together these innovations provide a complex price and data capacity management infrastructure necessary to offer a consumer friendly approach to subscribing to a class of data or service content. This service content might be grouped by any logical association such as a series of movies or other program content. The SOD service concept of having a single
- In an interactive information distribution system containing service provider equipment and subscriber equipment that is interconnected by a communications network, a method of providing a subscription-on-demand service for an interactive information distribution system comprising the steps of: sending from said service provider equipment to said subscriber equipment a first menu applet; decoding and executing said first menu applet within said subscriber equipment to display a first interactive graphical user interface; selecting, through manipulation of the first interactive graphical user interface, a subscription option; sending a selection signal indicative of said selected subscription option from said subscriber equipment to said service provider equipment; determining, within said service provider equipment, if the subscriber is a current subscriber to said service identified by said selection signal; if the subscriber is said current subscriber, sending a second menu applet from said subscriber equipment to said service provider equipment; decoding and executing said second menu applet within said subscriber equipment to display a second interactive user interface through which the subscriber can select a subscription program for viewing; if said subscriber is not said current subscriber, sending a third menu applet from said subscriber equipment to said service provider equipment; and decoding and executing said third menu applet within said subscriber equipment to display a third interactive user interface through which the subscriber can become a subscriber to the selected service.
- The method of claim 1 wherein second menu applet is connected to other menu applets that provide interactive displays of categories of services, titles of programs available in each category, and program pricing for each tile.
- The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of: if a new subscription is created, updating a subscription database within said service provider equipment to identify the subscriber as a subscriber to the selected service.
- The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of: if a subscriber requests a new subscription, sending a fourth menu applet from said service provider equipment and decoding and executing said fourth menu applet within said subscriber equipment to display a menu that requests a personal identification number for said subscriber.
- The method of claim 4 wherein said personal identification number is a master personal identification number.
- The method of claim 1 wherein the subscriber selects programming for a personal subscription-on-demand service and a personal subscription-on-demand option is included in said display produced from said first menu applet.
- The method of claim 1 wherein said subscription-on-demand services are arranged in a hierarchical structure.