Pay-Per-View For The Masses, Says Warner Bros. In Big MSO Pitch

Warner Bros, has launched a new campaign to persuade more cable subscribers to buy films on pay-per-view.

Ed Bleier, president of pay-tv, animation and network features at Warner Bros., last week outlined the pitch he’s delivered to most of the large multisystem owners based on a study of the 11 cable systems that rack up the biggest bucks from p-p-v.

The most important common denominator among these 11 systems is that they’re “devoting as many as four channels to p-p-v, so movie offerings can be made available more frequently and more conveniently,” Bleier said at his press conference here. The Warners’ study parallels national buy-rate estimates that show two-channel systems doing twice as well as those with one p-p-v channel and three-channel ones doing almost three times as well.

Bleier said that his research dug up other factors common to successful systems, among them:

* The best scheduling is the simplest. One or more “continuous hits” channels would run the same big-grossing film 24 hours a day for at least one full week.

* The ideal system hires at least one full-time executive to do nothing but focus on p-p-v.

* The viewer needs to be able to order a film easily, preferably by just punching up a number on his phone. When the cable system forces the viewer to remember personal-access codes and multi-digit movie numbers, it’s inviting him to bypass p-p-v and rent newer theatricals from the local video store.

* A 24-hour barker channel should be constantly promoting p-p-v films and events. And the cable system should schedule lots of 30-second spots for p-p-v in the local adjacencies it gets from all of the basic-cable networks.

* The two biggest p-p-v networks – Viewer’s Choice and Request Television – “are the problem, not the solution,” according to Bleier. “They’re geared to the ideology of their owners, not to getting the best results” from their subscribers. Stand-alone systems that side step the middlemen and instead deal directly with the film companies have better buy-rates than systems tied to V.C. and Request, he said.

* Systems should offer p-p-v to all subscribers, not just those who buy at least one paycable channel, even if that strategy would result in a sizable investment in addressable (two-way) technology.

Bleier said there’s room for p-p-v growth even among the 11 systems that score the best. For example, none of the 11 systems in the study allows viewers to subscribe to a film on the spur of the moment, the so-called “tune in anytime” capability.

The most agressive of the 11 now gross a monthly subscriber fee of $4.15 for p-p-v movies and events. But Bleier said, “As much as $10 monthly per p-p-v subscriber is attainable, if systems commit to the elements necessary for p-p-v success.”

The 11 systems in the Warner study are Cablevision of Baton Rouge (La.), Monmouth Cablevision (Belmar, N.J.); Time Warner Cable (Brooklyn/Queens, N.Y.); Garden State Cable TV (Cherry Hill, N.J.); Warner Cable (Columbus, Ohio.); Riverview Cablevision (Hoboken, N J.); Comcast Cablevision (Philadelphia); Continental Cablevision (Westfield, Mass.), and the Paragon Cable systems in Minneapolis, Portland and San Antonio.

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