After a nearly six-month search, Viewer's Choice has a
new leader. Fox Television Studios executive Mindy Herman has been charged with the
challenging job of leading the pay-per-view industry's No. 1 network into the 21st
Herman, who takes over next week as Viewer's
Choice's president and CEO, is armed with an extensive cable-programming and
marketing background, but limited PPV experience.
Some industry executives, however, were confident that she
will be able to effectively lead a network that is expected to help PPV to realize its
Terms of Herman's deal were not disclosed. Herman was
the leading candidate for the position after former Viewer's Choice president Jim
Heyworth resigned Oct. 31.
She inherits a company that's positioned to push PPV
beyond its disappointing analog business and into the promise of digital technology. The
service -- which serves more than 1,700 affiliated systems -- currently programs 33
digital channels featuring movie start times every 30 minutes.
But Herman also takes over at a crossroads period for
Viewer's Choice. With operators slowly moving toward digital, the industry is looking
for the network to be an aggressive marketing and affiliate-relations company that will
heavily support cable operators.
In addition, the network is in a constant battle with both
studio and event providers that want to maximize revenues for their products in a digital
"The most important thing for me is to try to build a
true partnership between Viewer's Choice and its affiliates, while reaching out to
different programming providers that can help to take PPV into the millennium and to the
next level," Herman said. "We have to determine the best way to brand and
position the network."
Herman will also have to manage the often-tumultuous
relationship between the cantankerous Viewer's Choice board. Tele-Communications Inc.
and Time Warner Inc. each hold one-third interests in the company, while Cox
Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and MediaOne Group Inc. hold a combined one-third.
"I believe that it's one of the challenges that I
face, but the support that they have given Viewer's Choice, as well as the affiliated
MSOs, affords us tremendous opportunity to create new programming and marketing
initiatives," Herman said. "That far outweighs the different PPV agendas that
the owners or other operators may have."
Obviously, the Viewer's Choice owners believe that
Herman is the right person for the job. At Fox, she served as executive vice president,
overseeing Fox Television Studios' worldwide sales and marketing, program
enterprises, business, production, finance and administrative activities.
Earlier in her seven-year career with Fox, Herman was
responsible for distributing the studio's products to PPV and pay TV. She was also
involved in developing Fox Sports Net, and she was a part of Fox's National Football
League broadcast-rights-negotiating team.
Herman also served as executive vice president of business
operations for the now-defunct Tele-TV Media digital service from 1995 through 1997. Prior
to that, she was senior vice president of business affairs for FX Networks, where she
played a key role in the launch and positioning of FX, as well as FXM: Movies from Fox.
PPV-programming executives were quick to welcome Herman to
"The business needs someone to help make the PPV
category a more embraced, generic brand by consumers," said Dan York, vice president
and general manager of TVKO. "We welcome Mindy to the PPV category, and we look
forward to working with her in an effort to maximize PPV's potential."
"She will bring a new and refreshing perspective to
the organization, given her background," said Mark Greenberg, executive vice
president, corporate strategy and communications for Showtime Networks Inc.
Herman said one of Viewer's Choice's biggest
challenges is to win over consumers in the wake of other programming options, including
home video and direct-broadcast satellite services.
"There will really be a marketing challenge in terms
of getting the information out to the viewer," Herman said. "Digital technology
will change the face of television, and Viewer's Choice will be a leader effecting
those changes, but the business needs the right mix of programming and marketing -- both
facets have to coexist for the business to work effectively."
She also wants to develop new programming products that
will further brand both Viewer's Choice and the PPV industry. She hopes to sit down
with programming providers outside of PPV to explore opportunities to work with them and
develop more programming options.
Herman said it was "premature" to discuss any
potential personnel changes within the network, adding that she expects to sit down with
the current staff and discuss the future of the network.