iN Demand cites ' business and legal concerns'

This article was updated at 6:52 p.m.

How’s this for an October surprise? Michael Moore’s pre-Election day spes h has been yanked off the pay-per-view ballot, and already, the filmmaker appears to be mulling a legal challenge to the results.

One of the nation’s largest providers of on-demand programming, iN Demand has withdrawn from talks to offer a three-hour election eve special with filmmaker Michael Moore that included the first TV showing of his doc “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

The company said Friday it would not air “The Michael Moore Pre-Election Special” due to “legitimate business and legal concerns,” a spokesman told the Associated Press, but declined to comment further.

The biggest sticking point in the talks with iN Demand deal was said to have come from Sony Pictures, which is distribbing the Moore film on DVD and is said to have feared that any TV broadcast would cannibalize sales.

Insiders say that the framework of the iN Demand talks had originally called for news of the planned PPV special not be released until Oct. 24th, a concession that became moot after news of the potential pact was reported in Daily Variety (Daily Variety, October 7th, 2004).

Moore had been seeking a TV berth for the film, which sharply criticizes President Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks, as close to the presidential election as possible.

Nov. 1 special, which would also include interviews with celebs and get-out-the-vote cheerleading, was to be available for $9.95.

Neither Moore nor his spokesmen were immediately available for comment late Friday afternoon.

The New York-based iN Demand, owned by the Time Warner, Cox and Comcast cable companies, makes pay-per-view programming available in 28 million homes, or about one-quarter of the nation’s homes with television.

In a statement, iN Demand said “we regret that our decision has led Michael Moore to consider legal action against us,” which it said would be “entirely baseless and groundless.”

iN Demand did not say what legal action Moore was considering.

This spring, Moore tussled with the Walt Disney Co., which refused to release “Fahrenheit 9/11″ through its Miramax Films because it was too partisan. After that spat became public, Disney agreed to let Miramax and Dimension Bob and Harvey Weinstein toppers have the film back. It has since earned more than $100 million at the B.O.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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