Tulsa, Okla. -- Cable operators will get their first
peek at the TV Guide-branded services emerging from Prevue Networks Inc. at the
Western Show this week.
The first fruits of Prevue parent United Video Satellite
Group Inc.'s $2 billion acquisition of the TV Guide magazine and related products
from News Corp. will include new features on the analog TV Guide Channel and more listings
on the digital TV Guide Interactive.
The new brand, which is also attached to the Sneak Prevue
pay-per-view barker channel, will be in effect for the analog channel and the TV Guide
Online Internet site in February, shortly after the acquisition closes in January,
officials said. The interactive guide will be rebranded in June.
When the rebranded products launch in February, a consumer
ad blitz will market the new names, Prevue executive vice president and general manager
Pam McKissick and other executives said.
The analog network, of course, is now called The Prevue
Channel, and it is carried in around 53 million homes.
"We are investing $18 million in that analog product
next year," McKissick said. "It'll be a new platform. It's going to have a sexy
New programming will be tied to features in the magazine,
including "Insider," with celebrity interviews, and "Best Bets."
The digital guide claims more than 1 million homes, mostly
in Tele-Communications Inc. systems, as TCI owns control of UVSG and it has the cable
industry's largest digital footprint.
On display for affiliates will be "Release
14.35," with modest changes, and "Release 15," with a new look and a key
revenue-generating feature: advertising. The latter release will be downloaded into
digital boxes in the second quarter of 1999, officials said.
Prevue will also show a prototype for the digital guide in
General Instrument Corp. DCT-5000 boxes, which will contain cable modems. Planned features
include movie trailers on-demand, "TV mail" and home shopping, in addition to TV
listings. GI has said that it expects to ship large quantities of the DCT-5000 by the
middle of 1999.
Prevue claims that the digital guide is carried by 800
systems, growing by 8,000 to 10,000 subscribers per day on its way to 4.5 million to 5
million subscribers by the end of 1999.
This represents a substantial head start over rivals such
as Gemstar International Group Ltd. and TVData Technologies L.P., the latter of which
recently launched a rival, passive on-screen guide.
The potential for guides -- already popular features with
digital and advanced-analog boxes -- to act as interactive TV "portals" drove
the TV Guide deal and other TCI investments in UVSG.
"We probably have one of the most powerful portals of
all," News America Publishing Group chairman and CEO Anthea Disney said,
"because when people come to television, they first of all want to know what's on,
and secondly, they want a brand that they can trust."