Brenner In Demand as prexy, CEO

Exec aims to nab NFL rights, lock horns with vid stores

NEW YORK — In Demand, the largest pay-per-view distributor in the U.S., has enlisted as its new president and CEO an 18-year veteran of USA Networks, Stephen Brenner.

Brenner, 51, said his priorities are to lock up earlier windows on theatrical movies to make In Demand more competitive with the video stores, and to guarantee that he gets the right to all of the Sunday out-of-market games of the National Football League beginning in two years, when the NFL’s exclusive contract with DirecTV expires.

Fred Dressler, senior VP of Time Warner Cable and chairman of In Demand (formerly Viewer’s Choice), said DirecTV was able to negotiate an exclusive deal with the NFL because “most cable operators didn’t have enough channels or digital boxes” to accommodate all of the Sunday games the NFL makes available.

Push to expand

But the rapid consolidation over the last few years has led cable operators to engineer an accelerated push designed to expand channel capacity and funnel millions of digital boxes into subscribers’ homes. Two years from now, Dressler says, many operators will be able to take full advantage of the “NFL Sunday Ticket,” which feeds as many as 13 games on a typical Sunday during the season.

In Demand distributes 35 channels, mostly consisting of hit theatrical movies, staggered in time so that the most prominent titles are available every half hour to subscribers with access to the entire package.

In Demand also transmits a number of pay-per-view events and out-of-market games of the National Basketball Assn. and the National Hockey League, among other non-movie programming.

Serving 28 million addressable households subscribing to 1,800 affiliated cable systems, In Demand is owned 44% by AT&T Broadband, 33% by Time Warner/Advance Newhouse and 11% each by Comcast and Cox Communications.

Loss of power

Brenner is ankling USA Networks Inc. after losing a power struggle to Stephen Chao last March. USA Networks abolished Brenner’s title — president of operations — and kicked him upstairs to USAi, where he became senior VP in charge of distribution.

Ironically, Barry Baker, president and chief operating officer of USAi, the man who engineered Brenner’s upheaval, himself announced his resignation earlier this week.

Before being named president of operations of USA Networks in 1998, Brenner was executive VP and chief operating officer of the company.

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