DirecTV to repeat NBC soap on PPV daily

NEW YORK — It’s only an experiment, but by allowing DirecTV to time-shift the daily NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” Columbia TriStar TV may be knocking the first prop out of the traditional same-time/same-day structure of broadcast network schedules.

Starting May 18, DirecTV subscribers who miss the early-afternoon telecast of “Days of Our Lives” will be able to catch up with that hourlong episode later in the day — it’ll run 10 times between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. on one of DirecTV’s 45 pay-per-view channels. That schedule holds Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, the five hours will run in sequence at 6 a.m., 11 a.m., 4 p.m., 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Splitting the fee

DirecTV will excise the commercials and other non-program material from each hour, charging $1.49 each time a subscriber calls up an episode. A monthly subscription is also available for $9.99. Sources say DirecTV will split the fees with Columbia TriStar TV.

Stephanie Campbell, senior VP of programming for DirecTV, acknowledges that one of the “unknowns” about this time-shifting experiment is whether it could begin to undermine the economic structure of broadcasting. Advertisers pay such big bucks to buy time in broadcast-network programming because 99% of the country can see most of the shows as a mass audience day and date.

NBC was not pleased with the news. “While they have the right to do this experiment, we are not happy about it, because exclusivity is a very important issue for NBC and its affiliates,” an NBC spokeswoman said.

NBC’s feelings notwithstanding, “We’re hoping this experiment brings more eyeballs to the serial form,” says Andy Kaplan, executive VP of the Columbia TriStar TV Group. Kaplan’s best-case scenario is that the time shifting will pull a whole new audience to the soap — people who aren’t home during the day and don’t want to bother programming their VCRs.

Your Choice option

The “Days” experiment is the first time DirecTV, which has 3.6 million subscribers, has entered the time-shifting arena. Discovery Communications has a division called Your Choice TV, which has begun offering cable operators five channels of time-shifted programming from ABC, HBO, ESPN, PBS and the Discovery Channel, among others.

For 99¢ an episode, Your Choice TV offers all four of ABC’s daytime soaps — “General Hospital,” “All My Children” “One Life To Live” and “Port Charles” — in a same-day 3-1/2-hour wheel (“Port Charles” is only a half-hour), with each of the episodes available again twice on the weekend.

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