A television future in which viewers can routinely order hit movies from a large list of choices may have moved a step closer with the launch of a new service from two cable industry companies.Cable Video Store, a subsidiary of Graff Pay-Per-View, has started pitching cablers on its new service providing a 10-channel pay-per-view multiplex, a cable industry first. It is doing so after striking an agreement with TVN Entertainment Corp., a satellite distributor to the home dish market, which has been offering 10 channels of PPV, 24 hours a day, for about two years. Now through this alliance, CVS can expand its programming mix from a single channel of PPV to a multiplex of 10 channels. (The alliance involves CVS shifting to a new satellite with greater capacity.) Graff president Mark Graff heralds the launch as a landmark in a new age in which television audiences can regularly order movies, without leaving their living rooms, from an array of choices. The launch of the new CVS/TVN service means cable operators will not have to wait for digital compression to start offering an expanded PPV schedule, Graff said. Currently, about 18 million cable TV homes (of the 60 million total homes) have the addressable technology in place that allows them to take advantage of PPV. Nearly everyone in cable believes PPV will assume a more prominent role in the TV future, but many question whether that day is at hand. At present, the cable industry is facing a severe shortage of channel capacity and few operators are in a position to make room for so many additional channels. Rod Thole, exec VP operations for Dallas-based Crown Media, views the new service as “an indication the business is changing,” but he also noted that few systems have the “shelf space” to make this significant. Graff should “not expect this will be a huge business,” said Thole, at least for now. Still, Paul Kagan Associates analyst Larry Gerbrandt said the industry has passed the stage where cable execs question whether a multiplex of this type will eventually find acceptance. “The relevant question is how quickly will the industry get there,” he said.
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