New York -- To keep some former Request Television
affiliates from going dark July 1, Viewer's Choice will upload several of its
pay-per-view channels on the Request network's transponders.
For two weeks beginning July 1, Viewer's Choice will
simulcast its main channel on the transponder slot currently taken by Request 1, said Jim
Heyworth, president of Viewer's Choice. Also, Viewer's Choice channels 4, 3, 2
and 5 will take the transponder slots of Request 2, 3, 4 and 5, respectively.
The move was made to protect those Request affiliates that
have not completed the necessary steps to implement the technology that is needed to
receive Viewer's Choice's signals. Some 800 Request affiliates have moved to
Viewer's Choice since Request announced last month that it was closing its doors as
of June 30.
Those systems had to order DigiCipher II integrated
receiver-decoders from General Instrument Corp. to receive Viewer's Choice's
lineup of PPV channels. After receiving the IRDs, systems then had to register the
equipment through Viewer's Choice.
While most operators have met the PPV network's
deadlines, Viewer's Choice introduced the two-week simulcast to provide more time for
"Most systems have met the deadlines and have the new
technology, but there may be some that haven't gotten back to us," Heyworth
said. "In those instances, the systems will not go dark."
One Request-affiliate executive, who requested anonymity,
praised Viewer's Choice for making the technical transaction from Request a smooth
one. She cautioned, however, that it remains to be seen if the network can continue to
provide quality service in the future.
Indeed, Viewer's Choice will carry the weight of the
PPV industry on its shoulders, providing PPV service to 27 million to 28 million cable
households -- Cablevision Systems Corp., with its more than 2 million households, was the
only MSO that failed to reach a distribution deal with the network. Heyworth said the
network is up to the challenge of leading the PPV industry to the next level.
"To be able to offer to the marketplace a
state-of-the-art digital service is what this company has wanted to do for several
years," Heyworth said. "We don't look at this as pressure on us, but
rather, as an exciting opportunity for us and for the industry."
To handle the volume of new business, Viewer's Choice
increased its staff load, although its unclear how many, if any, former Request affiliates
will move over to Viewer's Choice.
The network has hired an operations team that will be based
in its new Denver office, Heyworth said. Viewer's Choice will use the space formerly
occupied by Request on Tele-Communications Inc.'s Headend in the Sky digital platform
to program 35 digital-PPV channels.