After years of offering predominantly action-adventure
movies and adult-oriented fare, Action Pay-Per-View is looking to add more marquee PPV
events to its programming lineup.
The network, which has more than 9 million subscribers,
recently signed a deal to distribute ESPN's Major League Soccer/ESPN Shootout PPV
package, said Curtis Symonds, president and chief operating officer of Action. The deal
marks the first national PPV-event package that the network will offer to its subscribers.
Action will distribute a series of Wednesday-night games --
part of ESPN's package of 100 out-of-market MLS games.
"This is a perfect marriage between the entertainment
and the sports industries," Symonds said. But the network isn't stopping at
soccer: Action is also talking to representatives from the World Wrestling Federation and
World Championship Wrestling in an effort to distribute events from one of the hottest
segments in the business. Symonds added that Action is also in negotiations to distribute
a series of women's boxing matches.
Representatives from the WWF and the WCW could not be
reached for comment at press time.
"We've always been trying to find out how to do
different things for our subscribers," Symonds said
Despite having the successful Black Entertainment
Television brand behind it, Action has struggled to get widespread distribution throughout
the cable universe. While it distributes several blockbuster titles, its primary focus is
on urban-oriented movies and adult-oriented programming. The network has also fallen
behind its chief competitors -- Request Television and Viewer's Choice -- in terms of
multiplexing its brand service, although BET plans to announce its digital expansion plans
at the National Show next month.
One Action PPV affiliate, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity, said offering more high-profile events will go a long way toward bringing
Action PPV more awareness among subscribers. "It would certainly give the network a
major awareness boost," the operator said.
ESPN is hoping that Action's soccer coverage will
expose the package to cable subscribers who haven't been able to access the games in
the past. Neither Request nor Viewer's Choice put the games on their primary event
channels last year, and neither has signed on to carry the games this year.
"We're happy to do business with them; it will
put the package in more homes than we had last year," said Skip Desjardin, director
of sales and marketing for ESPN. "We'd love to do other things down the line
Event distributors have used Action PPV to distribute major
PPV programs in the past. Showtime distributed a Michael Moorer-Vaughn Bean
heavyweight-boxing card via Action in 1997, and it drew modest buys. However, Showtime was
able to generate incremental revenue from the event, despite running the main event
simultaneously on its pay TV service.