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Former Century Communications Corp. CEO Andrew Tow is heading up a new digital network and video-on-demand service based on content from the popular Internet streaming-movie site

AtomTelevision, the new digital service set to debut in first-quarter 2003, will benefit from a free preview of sorts, with content to bow as part of Comcast Corp.'s planned VOD launch this fall, Tow said.

AtomTelevision, a joint venture between AtomFilms and Tow's Global Media Holdings, will feature an exclusive, high-quality library of thousands of short film and animation titles that's highlighted by major award winners, as well as star-powered content.

The films are currently available on AtomFilms' Web site, which attracts a loyal, advertising-friendly base of over 18 million unique users every month, and has registered over 60 million users since its launch in 1998.


The network, which will proffer 20- to 30-minute film shorts, is perfectly suited for the attention-wandering young viewers, he added.

"The TV industry has to face facts that long-form programming is no longer the best way to go, and short-form bursts are now the trend," Tow said. "If we can convert only a tiny portion of the Web site audience to watch it in a more technologically robust format on cable, we should have a TV channel that can be a top draw for operators both in a digital or analog environment."

But AtomFilms isn't the only digital service with a short-film focus that's vying for operator attention. Brief Original Broadcasts — co-founded by former High Speed Access Corp CEO Dan O'Brien — plans to launch Jan. 1, offering independently produced short-form programming targeting the 18-to-34 demographic. The service's short films will cover most genres, including comedy, drama and animation.

Tow said he's currently talking to both operators and advertisers about the young-male-targeted service, which would offer blocks of movies on a 24-hour basis, programmed according to theme. Tow, who served as chairman of Century's cable unit in the mid-1990s, projects the network will be in 3 million to 5 million households at launch.

He would not disclose rate-card fees for AtomTelevision, but said the carriage agreement would be "operator-friendly."


The channel's content can easily be converted into a VOD format, which operators can use to generate incremental revenue, he said. AtomTelevision's debut on Comcast's Philadelphia-area VOD launch later this fall will come in five, one-hour themed blocks, including Academy Award-nominated short films and animated titles; celebrity-driven short movies featuring Ewan McGregor, Matthew McConaughey, Neve Campbell and Billy Bob Thornton; and Atom classics. Comcast will offer the service to customers free of charge.

"We [Comcast] are excited to work with AtomTelevision's strong executive leadership team to offer our digital cable customers in Philadelphia the opportunity to enjoy AtomFilms' diverse library of short-form entertainment at no additional charge," said Comcast executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service Dave Watson in a statement.