PPV underdog wins

Cablevision's TVN deal surprises industry

NEW YORK — Chuck Dolan’s Cablevision Systems Corp., the sixth-largest cable operator in the U.S., surprised the industry by signing with one of the smaller distributors, TVN Entertainment Corp., for pay-per-view movies and events.

The industry figured that CSC would link up with Viewer’s Choice, the largest pay-per-view distributor, as of July 1, when CSC’s current PPV supplier, Request TV, officially goes out of business.

“We deliver movies from all of the major studios, plus all of the pay-per-view events,” said David Sears, TVN’s senior VP of affiliate sales and marketing.

Sources say TVN will kick in some marketing money to Cablvevision, an inducement that Viewer’s Choice would have found difficult to match because the majority owners of Viewer’s Choice are the five biggest cable operators: Tele-Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Media One and Cox. These five wouldn’t necessarily take kindly to Viewer’s Choice pouring marketing dollars into the coffers of one of their chief rivals.

Sears also said he might get a few other cable-operator clients of Request to jump to TVN to prevent Viewer’s Choice from becoming a monopoly.

‘Lots of efficiencies’

A Viewer’s Choice spokesman said his company offers “lots of efficiencies” to cable operators. For example, he said, it was impossible for a studio to promote a pay-per-view movie in a large market day-and-date when one cable system used Viewer’s Choice and another used Request because the two distributors run the movie at different times. If all systems in a market become Viewer’s Choice clients, the movie timetable will be uniform, he said.

TVN says it will place its PPV channels on CSC systems in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio and Massachusetts, or about two million of CSC’s total subscriber base of 3.3 million.