The Ski Channel is taking off on another platform: AT&T's U-Verse multichannel video service.
According to channel chairman Steve Bellamy and AT&T vice president of on demand programming Richard Wellerstein, the channel will be available as a fee on-demand service on U-verse starting June 1.The ad-supported VOD channel already has a deal with Verizon's FiOS telco video service.
Bellamy says the channel is now in about 20 million homes, including all U-verse homes (U-verse signed up its millionth customer in December 2008).
He continues to try to grow distribution to match his growing appetite for original programming. "It has been an incredible winter at The Ski Channel," Bellamy told Multichannel News. "We have been filming non-stop and shot over 100 new television shows. We are really going to bring this space to life."
In announcing the carriage deal, Wellerstein suggested it was a competitive advantage that U-verse had strapped on the Ski Channel in advance of some competitors. "U-verse TV customers will be able to enjoy this compelling content for free before many cable customers," he said..
Ski Channel launched Christmas Day with long-term carriage deals from DirecTV and Verizon to add to carriage on Time Warner, Cox and Bright House.
The channel also will announce Monday that it has secured the rights to its first major studio-produced theatrical, appropriately titled First Descent. The Universal Pictures film features top snowboarders, headlined by carrot-topped gold medalist Shawn White, tackling "extreme slopes" in Alaska.