Playboy backs away from Spice Hot net

Raunchy adult channel picked up by Califa

NEW YORK — Playboy Enterprises has decided not to take over Spice Hot, an adult-video channel that’s much raunchier than anything on the Playboy Channel.

“Playboy has a worldwide image to protect,” said David James, a co-owner of Califa Entertainment, which has agreed to pony up $25 million to buy Spice Hot. That cable network is part of Spice Entertainment Cos., which is about to become a division of the Playboy empire. Califa plans to change the name of Spice Hot to the Hot Network.

Playboy expects to start running the 17-million-subscriber pay-per-view Spice network before the year is out. Like the Playboy Channel, Spice schedules heavily edited versions of porno movies. The Playboy Channel reaches more than 11 million PPV subscribers.

The censor’s scissors are far less active for Spice Hot, which reaches more than 6.5 million PPV households, including the 3 million who subscribe to DirecTV, the satellite-TV distributor.

James said most of the cable systems that carry Spice Hot are small operations that are not part of the giant multisystem companies like Time Warner, TCI, Media One, Comcast and Cox. The big publicly owned cable operators have steered clear of Spice Hot, he said.

Califa is part of a privately held company called Vivid Video Inc., which is one of the largest producers of adult videos in the world. James said Vivid Video harvested about $30 million in revenues in 1997 and is the biggest supplier of edited soft-porn movies to the Playboy Channel.

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