Studios skirting UIP Pay TV

United Intl. Pictures’ pay TV unit increasingly is being sidestepped by the partner studios pursuing separate feevee strategies.

The London-based pay TV division effectively has been functioning more as an administrative post than as a dealmaking entrepreneur since its president, Andrew Kaza, ankled in June. His former second-in-command Helen Pilkington is now in charge.

Pay TV licensing deals are being negotiated directly by the relevant execs at the member studios, MCA-Universal, Viacom-Paramount and MGM-UA.

“UIP Pay TV is a going concern; however in certain parts of the world the partners are pursuing deals on their own,” confirmed Gary Marenzi, MGM-UA Telecommunications president. Marenzi served as UIP Pay TV prexy before he joined MGM-UA and was succeeded by Kaza.

The European Commission has been investigating whether UIP Pay TV runs afoul of the EC’s anti-monopoly regs, and has a separate but parallel inquiry into UIP’s theatrical distrib co-venture.

Marenzi declined comment on the EC’s unresolved examination of the pay TV partnership, but it seems likely the studios’ moves to negotiate deals individually is not a direct response to the EC, but simply a matter of differing corporate strategies in Hollywood.

Marenzi’s presence in Sydney last week for the launch of Australia’s first cabler Optus Vision itself symbolizes the separate paths being followed by the studios. MGM-UA is partnered with Warner Bros. and the Walt Disney Co. in Optus Vision’s two movie channels. Par and Universal, along with Sony’s Columbia TriStar and 20th Century Fox, co-own the rival movie channels currently carried on the Galaxy satellite/microwave service; they will be part of cabler Foxtel’s package when it launches next month.

MGM-UA plans to launch its first satellite channel, MGM Gold, in Asia next year in partnership with Indonesia’s Asia Media Management. The film channel will draw on MGM’s post-1986 library (Ted Turner owns the studio’s earlier titles) and United Artists’ vast catalog.

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