Viewers Choice Search Down to Two

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Pay-per-view executives expressed mixed feelings last week
over the two apparent finalists for the top spot at Viewer's Choice.

Fox Television Studios executive Mindy Herman is the
leading candidate to replace former Viewer's Choice president James Heyworth,
although former Viacom Inc. and NBC executive Neil Braun is apparently in the running, as
well, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Both Herman and Braun have impressive backgrounds within
the television-production field, but neither has extensive PPV experience.

More important, some PPV executives believe that neither
candidate has a strong enough marketing or operations background, which is key to moving
the marketing- and affiliate relations-driven Viewer's Choice to the next level.

But supporters believe that both executives have the
necessary leadership tools to bring new and innovative ideas to what has been a
disappointing business.

Herman, currently executive vice president of programming
enterprises for Fox Television Studios, previously worked at now-defunct telco
video-programming venture Tele-TV. She oversees the development of programming for several
Fox programming companies, including cable outlets Fox Family Channel and FX.

Herman could not be reached for comment last week.

Braun left his position this past summer as president of
NBC Television Network to join a bid to purchase PolyGram Filmed Entertainment.

Prior to that, Braun was president of Viacom Entertainment,
overseeing the development of primetime network programming.

Sources said both candidates survived an extensive search
by Viewer's Choice that began late this summer to replace former president Heyworth,
who announced his resignation in August, effective Oct. 31.

Joe Boyle, vice president of corporate communications for
the network, would not comment on "rumors and speculation" regarding any
potential candidates.

PPV executives, none of whom wanted to be quoted by name,
said Herman, in particular, could stir things up at Viewer's Choice, which serves
more than 27 million addressable subscribers.

With her programming background and apparent strong
relations with the movie studios, these executives believe that Herman could open up new
event and programming opportunities for an industry that is heavily dependent on boxing
and wrestling for most of its revenue.

"I think that Mindy can provide the leadership that
Viewer's Choice and the industry will need going into the millennium, especially with
digital technology poised to take PPV revenues to the level that the industry always
envisioned," one executive said.

But others hoped that Viewer's Choice would tilt more
toward an executive with a stronger marketing and promotional background. One executive
said the industry needs the PPV network to be an aggressive marketing and
affiliate-relations company that will support cable operators as they move to
multichannel, near-video-on-demand digital operations.

Also, some executives wondered if anyone would be able to
work effectively with Viewer's Choice's often-splintered ownership group.
Tele-Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable each own one-third interests in the
company, while Cox Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and MediaOne split the remaining
one-third.

"It remains to be seen whether the new president can
effectively deal with the owners and make them all happy," one PPV executive said.

Related