Despite impending deadlines, several Request Television
affiliates have not yet chosen a pay-per-view network to replace the lame-duck PPV
A number of operators are still weighing their options
between current No. 1 PPV network Viewer's Choice and upstart TVN Entertainment
Corp.'s new analog-PPV channels. But with guide and marketing-material deadlines
nearly passed, executives said, decisions have to be made soon.
With Request closing its doors June 30, Viewer's
Choice seemed to be the most logical choice to provide PPV programming and marketing
support going forward for former Request affiliates. But two weeks ago, TVN -- which
already offers a 32-channel, digital, near-video-on-demand movie-and-event service --
announced that it will add three more digital channels June 1 that can be converted into
One channel will offer a mix of current hits, similar to
Request 1, while the second and third channels will feature movie-of-the-week and
movie-of-the-day formats, TVN said.
With at least two PPV-network choices -- BET Holdings
Inc.'s Action Pay-Per-View has yet to reveal any plans to expand beyond its
action-adventure movie format -- cable operators are evaluating both services.
Several Viewer's Choice deadlines have already passed,
further complicating matters for operators. Systems opting for Viewer's Choice now
will not have the benefit of the network's ad materials, and they have already missed
guide deadlines. Further, the deadlines for receiving and installing the necessary
hardware to receive Viewer's Choice's channels close within the next two weeks.
Sources close to the situation said that if operators have
not reached a decision before the end of the month, it's conceivable that systems
could go without PPV programming for July.
Jones Intercable Inc. is looking at several options,
including Viewer's Choice and TVN, but it will not rush into a hasty decision, said
Phil Laxar, vice president of programming for the MSO.
"We would like to conclude a decision by this week,
but, if for some reason, we still haven't, we won't let guide deadlines
determine our PPV future," Laxar said. "It will come down to whoever has the
Joseph Lawson, vice president of marketing for Bresnan
Communications, also said the MSO is still considering both options.
"We're listening to both Viewer's Choice and
TVN, and we've had our deadlines for guide suppliers extended so that we can conduct
a thorough examination," Lawson said. "We want to make sure that we have strong
marketing partners for our smaller, less-urban systems."
A third Request MSO affiliate that wished to remain
anonymous said it was even considering programming its own PPV operations, but it will
most likely reach a network deal for the short term.
Representatives from Viewer's Choice and TVN would not
comment on potential affiliation deals.
Viewer's Choice, however, does have a major feather in
its cap: Tele-Communications Inc. has already committed its 4 million addressable
subscribers to the PPV service -- by far the largest percentage of subscribers from any
Request affiliate. TCI holds a 33 percent interest in Viewer's Choice as part of a
shareholder-restructuring deal announced last month. It's also likely that Time
Warner Cable, which holds a 33 percent stake in Viewer's Choice, will go with that
The other Viewer's Choice partners -- Cox
Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and MediaOne -- hold 33 percent combined. With slimmer
stakes in Viewer's Choice, these MSOs could seek better deals with TVN or run PPV as