NEW YORK — Moviewatch, a new cable network featuring hours of original programming each week and chock full of information about theatrical movies, is under construction for an on-air debut in December 2001, and Rod Perth, former president of entertainment for USA Networks, has signed on as president.
Perth declined to comment on Moviewatch, but sources said the owner and distributor of the network is Hubbard Broadcasting, the privately held company that owns, among other properties, 10 TV stations and the satellite service All News Channel. A spokesman for Hubbard said the company would have no comment on its cable plans.
One source said Perth and Stanley Hubbard, the chairman of Hubbard Broadcasting, got a positive reception when they made the rounds of the major studios last week to gauge their interest in contributing film clips and movie background material to the network.
Hubbard is counting on getting full carriage for Moviewatch from DirecTV on its most widely circulated tier (encompassing about 9 million subscribers) because Hubbard and DirecTV were partners in satellite distribution of programming until May 1999. That’s the date when DirecTV completed the deal that paid Hubbard $1.25 billion to buy its 51% stake in United States Satellite Broadcasting.
Moviewatch’s sales pitch to cable operators, according to one insider who has seen the plans, is that cable systems should embrace the network and give it full carriage on expanded basic because a lot of Moviewatch’s programming will serve as a marketing tool for pay-per-view movies and for the multiplexed pay TV networks.
“Moviewatch will be much more than simply a barker channel, and cable operators could easily use it as a promotional mechanism to get more people to buy movies on pay-per-view and to subscribe to more pay TV,” the insider said.
One studio executive who sat through the pitch said Moviewatch has an ambitious strategy to create original programming that will feature personalities who could develop a following and attract a wide viewership.
The timing could be right for Movieline because all of the major cable operators are pushing harder than ever to funnel digital boxes into people’s homes. And Movieline’s argument to the operators is that movies are the No. 1 lure to subscribers, who are eager to tap into dozens of channels of pay-per-view movies and dozens more channels of pay cable multiplexes, all of which are heavily dependent on theatricals.
Another advantage is that Hubbard has no intention of selling equity stakes in Movieline to any of the major studios so that the operation will remain free of any potential conflict of interest.