Sie And TCI’s Liberty Launch Pic-Driven Pay-Tv Service

John Sie, who pioneered the multipay concept when he was a Showtime exec, and Tele-Communications Inc. spinoff Liberty Media have formed a national commercial-free feature-film-driven pay-tv service called Encore. It’s a joint venture of Sie’s newly formed communications company and Liberty Media.

Sie, who will head the new venture, is shifting from senior v.p. of TCI.

The new paycable service will play only the hits of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, as opposed to the American Movie Classics service which programs Hollywood’s films and entertainment from the ’30s through the ’70s.

Sie, during a press conference in Denver Feb. 20, said Encore will offer programming 24 hours a day and will run films uncut.

According to Sie, TCI already has signed an affiliate agreement with Encore for its owned-and-operated cable systems, encompassing more than 6.5 million cable subscriber households.

The plan is to intro Encore April 1 for testing on four TCI systems (which will not be identified until the National Cable Television Association convention in New Orleans next month). The test will cover marketing, packaging and pricing points.

Encore’s rollout to the rest of the country is set for June 1.

Programming calls for 30 new films a month, with a new feature in primetime every night. A new movie will start every two hours with two to five minutes of intros by a host.

Sie said the license fee to cable operators will be “substantially lower” than what they currently pay for pay services, allowing them to charge less to consumers while retaining the same margin for themselves.

He said the range of pricing would be $5 to $7 for Encore only, $3 to $5 if it’s offered as a second service to a consumer already taking a pay service and $2-$2.50 for multipay subscribers.

According to Sie, Encore’s break-even point is 2 million subscribers. He maintained that the service is capitalized to cover costs until that level is achieved.

Sie reported licensing agreements for films with Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Samuel Goldwyn, Orion, Tri-Star, Warner Bros, and MGM/UA/Pathe. He said “gaps” will be filled with deals made with the other studios.

Encore will have an 18-month pay window, exclusive from network tv and syndication.

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