Via Digital taps Solomon

MADRID — Spain’s second digital platform, Via Digital, has signed up Michael J. Solomon, former prexy of Warner Bros. Intl. Television, to acquire and package big U.S. feature films for its upcoming movie channels.

Although Via Digital’s president, Pedro Perez, declared last week the company was “not prepared to pay above-the-market prices for output deals with the majors,” Solomon’s recruitment can be seen as an attempt to accelerate deals with U.S. studios.

Via Digital already has an acquisitions team in place, headed by Carlos Ripoll, with Jorge Sanchez Gallo as director of external productions. But neither has extended experience in negotiating large package deals with the U.S. Never one to hide his personality or achievements under a bushel, vet Solomon has built a high profile as a specialist in big Latin America film sales and channel packaging.

Controlled by the cash-rich Spanish telco Telefonica, national pubcaster RTVE and Mexico’s Televisa, Via Digital lost out in June to rival CanalSatelite Digital (CSD) in an aggressive bidding war for a key exclusive output deal with Time Warner.

Launched in January 1997, CSD has also signed output deals with Disney, DreamWorks and Polygram Filmed Entertainment.

Skedded to air a 35-channel basic package, including three movie channels, from late September, Via Digital has yet to sign any large deal with U.S. product suppliers. It will add two premium film channels toward the end of the year.

Silvia Lovosevic is expected to continue to work under Sanchez Gallo buying indie product for Via Digital.

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