News

Universal Pushes Back Jackal PPV Date

6/07/1998 8:00 PM Eastern

Universal Studios' decision to push back the
pay-per-view premiere date of The Jackal by two weeks may cost operators hundreds
of thousands of dollars in lost PPV-movie revenue.

Operators were forced to make very late last-minute changes
last week to on-air and barker-channel schedules, after an internal-scheduling error
forced the studio to push back the PPV-premiere date of the film from June 4 to June 18.
Operators and distributors were alerted of the change one week prior to the movie's
scheduled PPV premiere.

Representatives from Universal declined to comment.

PPV networks Viewer's Choice, Request Television and
TVN Entertainment Corp. and the direct-broadcast satellite services all had to find
emergency replacements for The Jackal, which earned more than $54 million at the
box office. Viewer's Choice will replace the movie with Warner Bros.' The
Devil's Advocate
, while Request will offer DreamWorks SKG's The
Peacemaker
. Representatives from DirecTv Inc., PrimeStar Inc., EchoStar Communications
Corp. and TVN could not be reached for comment at press time.

But without any time to market and promote the change,
buy-rates for both movies will be adversely affected, said Joe Boyle, president of
corporate communications for Viewer's Choice.

Along with potential lost PPV revenues, operators will also
have to dish out extra dollars to make the necessary ordering and billing changes. Media
General Cable in Fairfax County, Va., estimated that it will cost about $3,000 to $5,000
to change telephone-ordering numbers for the movie, as well as to set up the correct
billing program, said Ted Hodgins, manager of PPV for the system.

"That figure doesn't include the cost of the
extra time that the CSRs [customer-service representatives] and the staff will put in to
explain the situation to subscribers," he added.

Cindy Caverly, PPV-product manager for Sacramento (Calif.)
Cable, said the system will make viewers aware of the changes via The Prevue Channel, but
it lost any opportunities to change print or billstuffer materials. Fortunately, however,
the system does all of its billing and ordering operations in-house, so the changes
won't cause an operations nightmare, Caverly added.

But for one major California system, the changes will
further confuse viewers who are already wary about ordering PPV movies. "The
customers will really be inconvenienced," said the system's PPV executive.
"The best things about PPV are convenience and choice, and we've lost both with
this movie."

While it wasn't mentioned in the initial memo to
operators from Universal, some operators theorized that the home-video business put
pressure on the studio to maintain the widest possible home-video widow, thereby hurting
PPV. Because of the scheduling error, the home-video industry would have lost at least two
weeks of rental time for the action title had Universal stuck to its June 4 PPV date.

The home-video industry, which has experienced flat revenue
increases over the past few years, has recently put intense pressure on studios to
increase PPV windows for movies. While many studios are holding the line for PPV windows
at 45 days to 60 days, several others have said that it's becoming harder and harder
to fight for PPV, which draws only one-eighth the revenues of home video.

"I'm sure that the video dealers'
fingerprints are all over this situation," said one operator who wished to remain
anonymous.

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