Service to offer p'gramming based on artist, genre, label

HOLLYWOOD — Digital TV specialist Liberate Technologies is partnering with Signatures Network to create an on-demand service providing concerts, musicvideos, backstage footage and other vid programming featuring more than 125 acts including Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Shakira, Kiss, Britney Spears and U2.

The service, which is expected to launch in the spring, would let viewers choose music programming from channels based on specific artists, genres, labels or even sponsors. Because the system is interactive, revenues generated by the service are expected to be distributed back to the artists in proportion to their popularity in the system.

Still to be determined is whether the on-demand system will be subscription-based or pay-per-view. Liberate chairman-CEO Mitchell Kertzman said it’s possible both options may be offered to customers, as has been done in the past on some premium channels.

Indeed, figuring out the best way to charge for the content may be one of the biggest barriers to its success. Video-on-demand services that provide movies have struggled for years to make a dent in the marketplace. Liberty exec John Sie just proposed opening a new distribution window, a month before video/DVD, for subscription-based VOD systems, though it’s likely to be vigorously opposed by the hugely profitable home entertainment side of the business.

Kertzman said Liberate is getting involved in the partnership to encourage cable operators to adopt its technology, which enables a range of interactive TV applications. Existing Liberate customers such as Cox and Insight Communications — both of which had execs endorsing the service at Tuesday’s New York announcement — will need to do relatively little to add the service to their existing suite of Liberate-based offerings.

The system will allow for the direct sale of artist-related merchandise, then ensure that performers, songwriters and labels get a proportionate share of revs from their programming.

“Performers and fans both want the same thing today, which is more control over their music,” said Signatures CEO Dell Furano. The company represents licensing and merchandising efforts for dozens of big acts.

“It offers artists an unprecedented opportunity to commercialize their live performances while retaining creative oversight, and gives fans access to a limitless amount of great personalized content,” Furano said.

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