Par, Viewer’s Choice cut PPV deal

After five years of negotiations, Paramount Pictures Corp. has finally cut a deal to provide its feature films to the Viewer’s Choice pay-per-view service starting Jan. 1, 1993.

In order to strike the agreement, Viewer’s Choice is altering the way it traditionally does business. For the first time, the pay-per-view company, owned by a consortium of cable operators, Warner Bros. and the Walt Disney Co., is allowing the studio to license pay-per-view rights directly to cable MSOs.

Viewer’s Choice has traditionally functioned as a middleman between motion picture studios and cable systems. But Paramount, like several other Hollywood studios, has balked at the prospect of doing business through a go-between. The studio has apparently felt that it will ultimately grab a bigger share of PPV profits by direct negotiations with cable systems.

Likewise, 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures are two other Hollywood studios that have also declined to do business with Viewer’s Choice, partly for that reason.

Another factor is Viewer’s Choice’s PPV rival, Request Television, which has always allowed direct booking between studios and cable operators. Paramount has long supplied its films to Request exclusively.

A few months ago, the nation’s largest cable operator, Tele-Communications Inc., and News Corp. (parent of 20th Century Fox) bought a controlling interest in Request.

Paramount Pictures officials were unavailable for comment on the agreement with Viewer’s Choice.

Viewer’s Choice president Jim Heyworth said the company is hopeful that the Paramount deal will be a prelude to agreements with Fox and Universal. “We’ve been in conversations with Fox and Universal throughout history. We’ve always wanted them on our schedule,” said Heyworth.

First film to be offered through this deal will be Paramount’s summer hit, “Patriot Games.”

Paul Kagan analyst Larry Gerbrandt said Viewer’s Choice’s buy rates have suffered in the past because of the absence of deals with Paramount, Fox and Universal.

“This is great news for Viewer’s Choice, but probably bad news for Request, since one of their (Request’s) key marketing pitches has been diluted,” he said.

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