New York -- Since the start of the year, Encore Media Group
has either signed or extended digital-carriage deals for its Thematic Multiplex channels
with 15 MSOs, officials said at a press briefing here last week.
Encore's package of services is already being offered
by parent Tele-Communications Inc.'s Headend in the Sky digital platform, but the
latest deals will mean that corporate agreements are in place to launch in front of 81
percent of the cable industry, Encore said.
Encore chairman and CEO John Sie pitched his multiplexes as
a so-called killer app that can help to drive digital-cable penetration, as they create a
"virtual video store" for digital subscribers.
Essentially, he said, surveys of direct-broadcast satellite
customers showed that they, over time, dramatically reduced their video rentals, instead
turning to premium multiplexes, near-video-on-demand and the Encore multiplexes.
According to Sie, the money that cable subscribers can save
from renting fewer videos more than pays for the entire cost of the digital package, which
typically runs $10 per month.
"That is at the core of our digital success," Sie
The operators that recently closed or extended deals to
offer the Encore Thematic Multiplex in their digital packages were Time Warner Cable,
MediaOne Group Inc., Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications, Century
Communications Corp., Falcon Cable TV Corp., InterMedia Partners, the National Cable
Television Cooperative, Multimedia Cablevision Inc., Insight Communications Co., Rifkin
& Associates Inc., Triax Telecommunications Co. L.L.C., FrontierVision Partners L.P.,
Marian UMDA and Americable International.
Encore has yet to strike a deal with Comcast Corp., another
aggressive digital player.
Encore also said it had negotiated new contracts or
extended existing ones for its two analog services, Encore and Starz!, with 15 MSOs,
including MediaOne, Cox and others.
The new contracts are generally for seven years, while the
extensions stretch as far as 2008.