Pay-per-view's party with The Artist to end 1999 will be
exclusive to cable operators.
Viewer's Choice will debut its In Demand brand with a
concert featuring The Artist (formerly known as Prince) in a blockbuster New Year's Eve
event that it hopes will usher in a new, more competitive and lucrative era for PPV.
"It's the coming-out party of our new brand and for
PPV," Viewer's Choice/In Demand president Mindy Herman said.
The event will mark the debut of In Demand, the new brand
name for Viewer's Choice.
Beginning Jan 1., all Viewer's Choice affiliates will adopt
the In Demand name for their analog and digital PPV operations, providing the industry
with uniformity across all cable systems.
The event will also launch In Demand Entertainment, which
is expected to develop original and mostly exclusive PPV programming for operators to
compete against direct-broadcast satellite.
While DBS -- particularly DirecTV Inc. -- has been able to
offer high-profile movies, concerts and sports programming exclusively to subscribers, the
PPV industry has been unable to secure such marquee programming for its consumers.
"The whole point of In Demand is to be proactive and
look for programming that will be proprietary for cable operators, to raise the profile of
cable and PPV and to enhance the In Demand brand," Viewer's Choice/In Demand
executive vice president of entertainment Mark Sonnenberg said.
"We're not looking to replace the existing product
that we have on PPV, but rather to enhance PPV programming for consumers and
operators," he added.
While The Artist hasn't been in the spotlight for several
years, he still has a loyal and strong fan base. He also has a new album out, which
Viewer's Choice/In Demand executives hope will further push awareness of the event. And he
owns that "Tonight we're going to party like it's 1999" lyrical hook from his
"[The Artist] has a very passionate following, and the
event will be enhanced with the release of his new album," Herman said. "The
things that work are the things that people are passionate about."
Operators embraced the announcement. "I think it's
great. He's popular enough and mysterious enough to attract an audience to the show,"
Cox Communications Inc. of Orange County senior product manager Marty Youngman said.
"We expect all of our customers to stay home and watch it."
Sonnenberg would not disclose how much the network was
paying The Artist for his performance, but he did say the company would not be
"bashful" about spending money to acquire quality events.
"The owners provided us with a content fund to
identify product we saw an opportunity here and took advantage of it," he
said. "The way In Demand is set up is to look for high-profile events."
Operators will be offered a marketing rate card for the
event, although Sonnenberg would not reveal specific details.
Herman would not speculate as to how well the concert could
perform, nor would she say how many buys Viewer's Choice/In Demand needs to generate to
turn a profit. "I want to bring a high-quality event and signal the beginning of what
is to come for the new entity," she said.
The network is planning to create a major marketing push
for the event, despite the short lead time. While Sonnenberg could not give specific
details about the campaign, he did say Viewer's Choice/In Demand would extensively use
radio and on-air spots to promote the concert.
He added that The Artist would make several national media
appearances in the next month to promote the event. "We have a plan that will kick
into gear very shortly," Sonnenberg said.
"I'm cognizant that we don't have a lot of lead time,
but we believe the event is important to the launch of a new brand, as well as to the
industry to have talent on the level of [The Artist] willing to perform on PPV,"
The concert will retail at a suggested price of $19.99, the
network said. The concert will originate from The Artist's Paisley Park studio in