New York -- Mark Sonnenberg left the
basic-cable-programming world last week and entered the pay-per-view realm as executive
vice president of entertainment at Viewer's Choice.
Sonnenberg, previously executive vice president at Fox
Channels Group, will not only oversee the entertainment, programming and research
operations at Viewer's Choice, but also the company's new production entity, In Demand
That new operation -- with a name that ties into the
forthcoming rebranding of Viewer's Choice as In Demand -- will actively develop original
content for PPV, ranging from made-for-PPV movies to concerts and other events that'll be
conceived in-house, rather than waiting for such events to be arranged by outside sources.
Viewer's Choice president Mindy Herman said in a prepared
statement that Sonnenberg "knows what it takes to secure high-profile entertainment
content that will help to fortify the position of our affiliates as the preferred
providers of proprietary in-home video programming."
Sonnenberg said he will be based in Los Angeles in order to
"bring ourselves closer to the [Hollywood] studios and develop better relationships
with the creative community."
His initial emphasis will be on "the traditional realm
-- concerts, comedy showcases, boxing and wrestling."
Later, he said, Viewer's Choice will oversee the production
of original movies and, eventually, unspecified "narrative programming" -- which
could mean series -- that will target not just primetime, but "ancillary dayparts not
yet fully realized in the PPV world."
The executives did not go into how much money would be
earmarked for this content-development fund, but Sonnenberg said the budget for its
proposed movies will be in a range "comparable to TV and cable [networks'
movies]." Herman indicated that the movie projects could include sequels to popular
"This industry is going to put its money where its
mouth is," Sonnenberg observed. That will include increased marketing budgets to
build consumer awareness of the PPV company's newest initiatives, he added.
Pointing to the recent Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad
fight, Sonnenberg said its 1.3 million homes "would not be a success in the
broadcast-TV world, but we live in a different world," where those homes generated
about $70 million in PPV buys.
Senior vice president of programming Michael Klein will
also relocate to Los Angeles, where "he'll be very active in everything we're
doing," Sonnenberg said. In addition, the programming department will add people.
Viewer's Choice -- major owners of which include AT&T
Broadband & Internet Services and Time Warner Entertainment -- has undergone an almost
complete overhaul in personnel and identity since Herman's appointment as president.
Sonnenberg is the second Fox executive hired by Herman,
herself a Fox alumna. He joins Gavin Harvey, now Viewer's Choice's senior vice president
of marketing and brand director and formerly senior vice president of marketing and
promotion at FX. Sonnenberg was FX Networks' executive vice president not long ago.
R. Thomas Umstead contributed to this story.