Showtime, Starz Encore Add Digital Nets


Both Showtime Networks Inc. and Starz Encore Group LLC will add new channels to their digital packages, officials from both companies said last week.

Showtime is targeting "Generation Y," women and families with three new digital multiplexes.

In March, the pay TV programmer will launch Showtime Next, Showtime Women and Showtime FamilyZone. All three will have an East and West coast feed, and be offered as part of the Showtime Unlimited digital package.

Starz, in turn, will debut two movie channels in 2002: Starz! Comedy and Starz!Kidz. They will bring the number of unique channels in the Starz Super Pak to 14.

Starz! Comedy will feature contemporary hit comedies like
The Water Boy

American Pie.

Starz! Kidz, aimed at children aged 2 to 8, will offer theatricals from a wide variety of studios.

Showtime Next will be aimed at viewers aged 18 to 24. It will have a corresponding Web site, which will launch along with the channel. Showtime is trying to cater to the young-adult demographic, which is a growing part of its subscriber base and uses the Internet.

"More and more of our customers are coming from this younger group," said Showtime executive vice president of corporate strategy and communications Mark Greenberg.

Showtime Next will air recent theatricals, never- before-seen movies from independent producers and film festivals. Some movies that will run on the service include
Scream 2
The Blair Witch Project

South Park: Bigger, Longer and

The channel also will have interactive-TV enhancements customized for its audience. For example, interstitials may direct viewers to the Showtime Next Web site for more detailed information about a movie or an online chat, Greenberg said.

The Showtime Next Web site will focus on theatrical entertainment, including movie trailers, celebrity interviews, original and acquired content and polls. Showtime is negotiating to buy original content for the site that might also be used in the TV interstitials, he added.

Showtime's own convergence study found 25 percent of U.S. households have a personal computer with Internet access in the same room as the TV set, according to Greenberg. And the percent of Generation Y-ers who use TVs and PCs located in the same room is even higher than the U.S. average, Greenberg said.

The second new multiplex, Showtime Women, will feature women "who are instrumental in moving the story ahead, in front of and behind the scenes," according to Showtime.

In addition to theatricals such as

Runaway Bride,

Showtime Women will feature original Showtime series such as
Soul Food

Stories of Passion.

"We try to find underserved markets [for multiplexes]," Greenberg said. "The women's audience offered us a great opportunity. And women in a household often make the decision to subscribe to a premium service."

The third new multiplex, Showtime FamilyZone, will air "G"- and "PG"-rated fare such as
The Rugrats Movie

Air Bud: Golden Receiver
, as well as carefully scheduled "PG-13" films such as

The Mask of Zorro.

The channel won't air any "R"-rated programming. The PG-13 movies may air later at night, at 8 p.m. or 10 p.m., Greenberg said.

"We're going to be careful," he added.

Showtime wanted FamilyZone to be "family friendly," but not G-rated, which is why it will also air PG- 13 movies, according to Greenberg.

With these three additions, Showtime's digital package will have 13 different multiplexes.

"We're trying to create a balanced portfolio," Greenberg said.