In a huge pay-per-view marketing initiative, eight major Hollywood studios are expected to commit millions of dollars to promote the value and advantages of PPV.
The national promotion, which could launch as early as this fall, would mark the first unified studio attempt to create brand awareness for the struggling industry.
Participants will include 20th Century Fox, Buena Vista Television, Columbia/TriStar, New Line Cinema, MGM, Paramount Pictures, PolyGram Television, Universal PPV Entertainment and Warner Bros.
The studios have created a coalition to provide the industry with a unified PPV-movie-marketing message, as well as uplifting the image of the industry, said Lee Hunt, president of Lee Hunt Associates, which has been retained to develop the creative.
The group will work together to build the PPV-movie business and to create a formidable entertainment brand.
"The best way [to promote PPV] is to unify the myriad of messages from the studios and to elevate the value perception of the category," Hunt said. "We need to take a cue from the studios and come together to make PPV -- whether it's movies or anything else, digital or analog -- an incredibly powerful product that consumers demand and want."
The coalition will look to hire several major Hollywood stars to tout the benefits and value of PPV through spot ads and other promotional materials. For example, 30-second spots could feature stars promoting PPV, followed by clips from upcoming films.
"There's never been a national campaign to really create value perception," Hunt said. "We want a singular, unified message. We want it to look good, and we want it to target former and light users [aged] 18 to 49."
What's unclear, however, is when the creative will launch, although one studio executive said it could debut as early as this summer. Also uncertain is how much studios will contribute to the campaign, although sources close to the situation said it could be as much as $10 million.
There is also debate among studio executives as to whether the campaign should be targeted solely to digital-PPV users or to the current analog business, according to sources close to the situation.
The extent of cable-industry participation is undetermined, as well. While the coalition won't ask cable operators for cash to support the campaign, it will most likely seek significant advertising inventory to get the message across to consumers.
"The campaign does not exist without the full support of the whole PPV and direct- broadcast satellite industry," one studio executive said.
But industry executives are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the campaign.
When the studios decide what they want to do and sit down with us with a plan, then we will determine our plans," one top-five-MSO PPV executive said.
What both operators and network executives agreed on is the need for a national PPV-image campaign. The PPV-movie business generated an estimated $998 million in 1998, according to Veronis, Suhler & Associates Inc.'s estimates, with nearly one-half of that coming from DBS providers. In comparison, home-video rentals grossed $7.65 billion.
Plagued by operator inconsistency relating to the number of PPV-movie channels and the level of marketing, the industry has yet to realize its potential.
The increased rollout of digital-PPV channels providing near-video-on-demand service has significantly boosted PPV revenues, but operators have been slow to roll out digital boxes, which won't reach a majority of cable homes for years.
Also, the awareness of PPV movies among light and former users is very low, according to a recent subscriber study cited by Hunt. The study reported that 56 percent of light and former users didn't know that PPV movies premiered before the premium windows, and 44 percent though that PPV was too expensive.
Heavy users, however, cited very high satisfaction levels for their PPV-movie experiences, as well as a strong price-value relationship for the product.