Disney testing PPV with ‘A Bug’s Life’

Mouse sells first toon pic, distribs get 3-month window

NEW YORK — Walt Disney is selling “A Bug’s Life” to pay per view, marking the first time in the history of the studio that a major animated theatrical has engineered a PPV run.

“We’re trying to push the pay-per-view business by experimenting with various window strategies,” said Dan Cohen, senior VP of pay TV for Buena Vista Television, a division of Walt Disney.

Cohen acknowledges that, by premiering on PPV Oct. 1, “Bug’s Life,” which began life in the multiplexes in December 1998, is getting to PPV more than a year later than the typical release of a non-animated theatrical. But since the movie has not appeared yet on the Disney Channel or ABC, the PPV airing will be the first time “Bug’s Life” has shown up on television.

Bellwether offering

This experiment is considered vital by Cohen because “branded family movies will become more and more compelling as digital TV creates movie-on-demand categories. Once a cable system goes from two channels to 35 channels of pay per view, there’s room for lots of family movies, which can generate some very real heat.”

PPV is so eager to showcase a top-drawer Disney animated movie that Cohen said all of the usual PPV distributors have signed up to transmit it: DirecTV, In Demand, TVN and EchoStar. He said these distributors will get an exclusive three-month window, meaning that “Bug’s Life” will still be available on PPV during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

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