MovieWatch Lands DirecTV

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Minneapolis-based startup MovieWatch has completed its first affiliation agreement with DirecTV Inc., which will launch the new movie-themed network next Jan. 21.

MovieWatch was founded by Hubbard Broadcasting subsidiary Hubbard Media Group. Hubbard had owned direct-broadcast satellite provider U.S. Satellite Broadcasting before it was sold to DirecTV. As part of the deal, DirecTV agreed to provide DBS carriage to future Hubbard programming ventures.

MovieWatch CEO Stan E. Hubbard said the companies were obligated "to negotiate a commercially reasonable carriage agreement," the definition of which changed over time.

"The business changes," Hubbard said. "It's hard for any network to say, 'If you carry our channel, you'll get more subscribers, and if you don't, you'll lose subscribers.' If that's the case, it's hard to ask for a license fee."

Instead, MovieWatch will be available license-free to cable and satellite operators that commit to certain penetration levels, as well as to favorable packaging and positioning, Hubbard said.

DirecTV senior vice president of programming acquisitions Michael Thornton said that with any new basic network, things like advertising avails and marketing assistance also play into the negotiations.

POINTING VIEWERS

Although the two companies haven't yet worked out specific promotional launch plans, "we have made a commitment that all our subscribers will know about it" when MovieWatch debuts in January, Thornton said.

MovieWatch's unique feature is platform-specific technology that can point DirecTV subscribers directly towards the movies reviewed on the new network, whether available on pay-per-view or a premium channel.

MovieWatch plans to offer 24 hours per day of programming focused on movies, including news, biographies and reviews, plus game shows and reality shows that deal with movie celebrities and fans.

Although he wouldn't specify a dollar figure, Hubbard said MovieWatch would commit "substantial amounts" to programming in its first year, and had already completed nine pilots. He projected that MovieWatch could break even within four years, depending on the number of subscribers it is able to sign.

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