PPV distrib inks 3-year deal for VOD pic rights

NEW YORK — In Demand, the dominant pay-per-view distributor in the U.S., has signed a theatrical-output deal with Artisan Entertainment that for the first time gives the distrib video-on-demand rights to movies over the three year life of a contract.

Ron Jacobson, exec VP of In Demand, played up the VOD aspect of the deal. He’s convinced, he said, that the six major studios with whom he’s negotiating over VOD will soon follow Artisan’s lead and turn VOD into a thriving business.

Artisan, however, tended to play down the VOD component of the deal. “To us, that’s the least important clause,” said Gary Rubin, exec VP of Artisan Television.

Rubin said Artisan “is one of the most video-driven and DVD-driven companies in the business.”

The average movie makes more money from videocassettes and DVDs than from any other venue, including theatrical exhibition, PPV, pay TV and broadcast TV. Artisan has engineered a computerized operation that keeps the company in regular communication with 1,200 video retailers throughout the country.

VOD pics will deliver a breakthrough only when all of the major studios are aggressively supporting it. Jacobson said Warner Bros. and DreamWorks are two of the studios that are letting In Demand run some of their movies on VOD as an experiment.

Cable operators are moving relatively slowly to install high-tech digital boxes in subscribers’ homes because there’s no guarantee that full VOD (allowing viewers to stop, pause and rewind a movie in real time) will be embraced by masses of cable subscribers. After years of grandiose announcements, fewer than 1 million subscribers have access to full VOD.

Artisan’s forthcoming titles include “Dirty Dancing 2,” the Marvel Comic spinoff “Iron Fist” and Steve Martin pic “Novocaine.”

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