On Command Nets Full Court Package

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On Command Corp. has further expanded its hotel/motel pay-per-view offerings through an agreement to deliver ESPN's out-of-market pay-per-view college basketball package.

The deal means "ESPN Full Court" would be the first out-of-market sports package made available to hotel guests, On Command senior vice president of programming and marketing Nancy Gallion said. It's scheduled to roll out later this month.

Gallion said On Command will use DirecTV Inc.'s feed to provide the games to hotels equipped with its new "Expanded Cable, Satellite and Broadcast Programming" (ECSBP) system, which allows guests to purchase special sets of programming during their stay. The package will fill as many as 13 PPV channels.

"We have about 20 charter hotels that will have the new software system necessary to offer the games initially, with more hotels offering it at a later date," she said.

Though the company is still working out pricing details for the package, Gallion said guests would most likely be able to purchase a full day's worth of college basketball games for roughly the same $9.95 price the company charges for movies.

The package compliments the company's video-on-demand hit movie lineup and its Sony PlayStation game offerings. The deal also comes on the heels of a recent agreement through which On Command will distribute past episodes of the Home Box Office series Sex and the City
and The Sopranos.

As part of that deal, hotel guests will be able to choose between two half-hour episodes of Sex and the City
or one hour-long installment of The Sopranos. On Command executives said the shows would sell for a suggested $9.95.

"We know that this signature program from ESPN is exceptional entertainment and will be in high demand from hotel guests," Gallion said. "When you think about the major programming categories that people want to see, movies and sports top the list."

For ESPN, the non-exclusive deal gives the network a new distribution outlet for its out-of-market package beyond cable and satellite. The package features up to 30 college basketball games each week.

It also allows ESPN to expose the package to fans that may not be familiar with the offering through their cable or satellite service.

"We realize that like true athletes, serious sports fans don't stop-even when they're on the road," said ESPN vice president of special markets Matt Murphy. "By offering the package through On Command, it introduces ESPN PPV to viewers and provides opportunities to generate greater buy-rates for the package once those travelers go home."

Murphy also said the company would explore offering its other out-of-market PPV sports packages through On Command, but no deals have been reached to date.

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