U gets Front Row look at U.K. with PPV deal

Studio inks three-year pact with cable operator

LONDON — Universal has signed a three-picture deal with Front Row, the cable TV pay-per-view consortium, making it the fourth studio to do a PPV deal with U.K. cable operators.

But unlike Warner, Disney and Columbia TriStar, Universal has yet to ink an output deal with Front Row, the rival PPV service to satcaster BSkyB’s Sky Box Office.

Although there are “long-term plans” for more Universal production on Front Row, the initial offerings — to air this summer — are “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “Liar Liar” and “Dante’s Peak.”

“This agreement is part of our strategy to offer Universal film titles to the U.K. consumer in all forms of media,” said Holly Leff-Pressman, Universal Television’s VP for worldwide PPV sales. “Licensing movies to pay-per-view is fundamental to this plan.”

Front Row — which is backed by Telewest and NTL, the second and third largest of the three U.K. cable operators — launched on March 12 after negotiating with Hollywood studios in fierce competition with BSkyB, which was seeking exclusive output deals. Cable & Wireless Communications, the biggest Brit cabler, carries Sky Box Office.

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