Mouse’s new ‘Toy’

Bypassing PPV, Disney cabler to preem sequel

NEW YORK — The Disney Channel is licking its chops at the prospect of scoring the TV premiere of “Toy Story 2,” probably in the spring of 2001, in effect superseding both pay per view and pay TV.

The Disney Channel will get a six-month exclusive window for multiple runs of “Toy Story 2,” after which Disney’s ABC Network will schedule the movie in its “Wonderful World of Disney” Sunday-night showcase in September or November 2001.

A spokesman for ABC declined comment, and a Disney Channel spokeswoman said the studio hasn’t yet informed the channel of its plans for “Toy Story 2.”

Nixing ABC preem

The reason for industry curiosity over TV plans for “Toy Story 2” is that the original “Toy Story” made its debut on ABC. That move was unprecedented: All of Disney’s animated theatricals before and since have premiered on the Disney Channel.

The original “Toy Story” started on ABC because the network wanted a powerhouse pic to kick off its new “Wonderful World of Disney” franchise in September 1997. The movie harvested a gaudy 9.8 Nielsen rating.

But with recent Disney animated movies such as “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Hercules,” the ABC primetime rating has dropped off dramatically. Most observers say the reason for the decline is that tens of millions of people already own the pics on cassette, through a videostore purchase or by taping it off the Disney Channel.

Tough on tape

The prospect of massive taping of movies by VCR users has convinced Disney to keep its animated movies off pay-per-view and remove them from the studio’s pay TV deal with John Malone’s Starz, which gets the output of the Disney-owned Touchstone, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax. Starz also shares a window with the Disney Channel for live-action family movies distributed under the Walt Disney banner, such as “The Parent Trap.”

So instead of a pay TV network getting Disney’s animated movies a year or so after their debut in U.S. multiplexes, the Disney Channel won’t chime in with its window for up to 18 months after the theatrical opening date.

So far, the other major studios that have started producing animated theatricals have sold them both to pay-per-view and pay TV. These pics include 20th Century Fox’s “Anastasia,” DreamWorks’ “Antz” and “Prince of Egypt” and Warner Bros.’ “Quest for Camelot” and “The Iron Giant.” All of them have traditional pay-per-view windows, and they’ll all end up on HBO within 15 months of their theatrical debuts.

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