TVN Events Unit Kicks Into Gear

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Buoyed by the recent establishment of its "TVN Presents" dedicated-events unit, TVN Entertainment Corp. will gear up for a dramatic expansion of its pay-per-view and video-on-demand programming activity in the months ahead.

TVN Presents, whose creation was announced at the National Show in New Orleans last month, has started to develop, co-fund and market new event programming, in conjunction with independent suppliers.

The role of TVN Presents will be as crucial to the company's expanding agenda as the succession of deals it has trumpeted in recent weeks, such as VOD projects with adult entertainment provider The Erotic Networks and Spanish-language PPV/on-demand channel TeleNuestros, featuring Cuban baseball, said CEO Ian Aaron.

The unit already has shows ready to roll or in development through at least six independent sources: Image Entertainment/Aviva International, Brentwood Communications, Stonecutter Media, Okimo Entertainment, Kenchenten Associates and Closed Circuit Sport. TVN programming executives Michael Klein and Brian Ricco overseeing the activity.

COMIC KICK-OFF

TVN Presents's first attraction was Alex Thomas & Friends: Straight Clownin', a standup comedy special that DirecTV Inc. picked up for direct-broadcast satellite distribution May 13. Four days later, King of the Cage
— the first in a series of mixed martial arts matches — debuted.

Subsequently, two concerts have aired featuring alternative rock band Godsmack (May 18) and soul crooner Teddy Pendergrass (June 13). Rap/R&B superstar band Public Enemy will be the next Presents attraction on July 6, followed by a second King of the Cage
special August 2.

When the dedicated-events division starts running on all cylinders, Aaron estimates that TVN will jump from offering about 50 events per year to its 600 cable-system affiliates to 200 or more events annually.

"We're adding a new dimension to this business," said Aaron. "Before, we were just licensing events. Now, we want to help drive them by collaborating with partners on development, and put some dollars in to stimulate marketing and buy-rates."

For each program, TVN will allocate $50,000 to $100,000 for development and marketing costs, with the specific budget determined by talent fees and attendant rights. Other events can cost slightly more, according to Aaron.

Besides contributing to specialty on-demand channels like Union — which TVN will run with sports-apparel maker Quicksilver and premiere later this summer — Presents offerings such as King of the Cage
could lead to dedicated VOD networks.

"The idea is to start with an event, then spin it off with a broad array of content out there that allows you to do a specific channel around it," said Aaron. "Mixed martial arts could be that."

'SEQUENCING' EYED

Another avenue Presents will pursue is developing events that can be linked to movies and packaged as one attraction.

For example, a cable subscriber could order Ali, the Muhammad Ali biopic starring Will Smith, along with A&E Network's Biography
on the famed fighter; scenes from The BET Awards, in which Ali is honored for his humanitarian efforts; and a Golden Gloves boxing competition originated by TVN Presents.

Aaron believes this compilation approach, or what he calls "sequencing," could prove attractive to some VOD households.

Whether these scenarios materialize depends on how well Presents events perform. Buy rate results from the unit's lineup thus far were unavailable at press time. A TVN spokeswoman said those results will be in by mid-August.

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