Mag Rack Loses GM, Planning Exec

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Two Mag Rack executives — general manager Matt Strauss and head of strategic planning Mike Nolan — have left the Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. service to form a consulting company.

“Mag Rack has been a labor of love for me, from its creation and launch over three years ago to managing the day-to-day operation,” Strauss said last week. “With four major MSO deals, 30 video magazines and 2 million VOD subscribers strong, Mag Rack is well on its way to continued growth and success.”

Strauss said his new firm will advise distributors and networks about developing and selling new services, like the next generation of VOD offerings. “After years of being fully immersed in the on-demand world, I feel I have much to offer operators and programmers about developing and marketing compelling new services for consumers,” he said.

Rainbow is looking at candidates to fill Strauss’s vacancy, according to company officials.

Mag Rack, a VOD service that offers a package of more than 35 “video” magazines with original content, has made strides in the marketplace since its 2001 debut, Rainbow CEO Josh Sapan said. The VOD service is carried in 2.5 million homes, basically in one of five of the 12 million homes with VOD, he said.

It’s carried by systems owned by Rainbow’s parent, Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications Inc., Mediacom Communications Corp. and Insight Communications Co., and by some smaller MSOs, like Pencor Services.

“That’s fairly substantial distribution for a relatively new product,” Sapan said. “Those MSOs have given it a vote of confidence. They’re now deploying it, and we are seeing excellent utilization.”

Two major hotel on-demand services, On Command Corp. and LodgeNet Entertainment, also carry Mag Rack, according to Sapan.

Mag Rack also has spawned stand-alone VOD services Sportskool and World Picks. Sportskool offers instruction from experts in sports in nine disciplines, while World Picks comprises foreign-language content.

Some of Mag Rack’s “magazines” include one on bikini abs, Pilates, yoga fitness; and “Guitar Xpress,” which features hours of basic guitar practice.

Mag Rack is kicking off a promotion, a “Guitar Face Contest,” in which digital cable subscribers can send in a photo of their best “guitar face” for judging by a panel of artists, record producers and rock photographers.

A winner picked by 16 celebrity judges will get a Les Paul “Black Beauty” electric guitar and case from Epiphone, a $1,180 retail value. Contestants can submit photos on Mag Rack’s Web site or by mail starting May 1.

Celebrity judges include Hank Williams Jr. and Rick Derringer.

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