Blockbuster beams

DirecTV PPV adds vidstore brand Friday

HOLLYWOOD — Blockbuster officially will launch its pay-per-view business Friday when it takes over the branding of nearly all of DirecTV’s 44 PPV movie channels.

The newly named Blockbuster Ticket service bows with Friday’s PPV debut of “Space Cowboys.”

In an effort to meet its target goal of doubling DirecTV’s PPV buy rates within two years, Blockbuster will promote the satellite movie service by playing a DVD of “Space Cowboys” continuously all weekend at DirecTV kiosks in Blockbuster stores.

Blockbuster also will become a movie supplier to DirecTV with the introduction of a new PPV double feature for the same price as a hit theatrical release, offering two movies that premiered exclusively in Blockbuster stores. The two movies, selected from among the 250 or so titles acquired and distributed so far by Blockbuster’s DEJ Prods., will be changed every three weeks and will run on a single channel initially. First up are last year’s action thriller “Primary Suspect,” starring William Baldwin, Brigitte Bako and Lee Majors, and thriller “Held for Ransom,” starring Timothy Bottoms, Morgan Fairchild, Dennis Hopper and Joan Van Ark.

DirecTV will continue to handle operations of the service, including scheduling and pricing (which remains at $3.99), and the two companies will jointly coordinate marketing of the movie services. The Blockbuster branding will not extend to adult or nonmovie PPV programming such as sports, concerts and other events and special programming.

Blockbuster began selling DirecTV service in its videostores in September as part of an overall marketing-sales partnership deal with the satellite programmer. Blockbuster claimed it signed up 100,000 DirecTV subscribers by Christmas on its way to reaching a financial-incentive goal of signing up 1 million by 2002. DirecTV has nearly 10 million subs.

DirecTV senior veep of programming Stephanie Campbell said in addition to a new logo for the service, the entire on-air look and creative campaign will change. Although PPV already is described as hits-driven, Blockbuster Ticket will focus even more attention on the biggest of the box office films. Rather than just trailers for movies, the on-air promotions will focus more closely on pushing the concept of PPV to viewers.

“This is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves,” Campbell said.

Additional support

It’s also a chance to get a lot more marketing and promotion support.

Blockbuster will use the leverage of its massive retail operations, including an enormous database of 48 million customers, to promote Blockbuster Ticket PPV, according to Blockbuster senior VP and chief concept officer Nick Shepherd.

In addition to signage and ads running on TV monitors in 4,100 participating company-owned stores, Blockbuster will send promotional literature to its customers by mail and use its Blockbuster.com Web site to promote the sat service.

Both companies said although there are no specific plans for Blockbuster and DirecTV to work together on video-on-demand services immediately, the PPV relationship could evolve into VOD.

“We don’t see VOD as an economic model today,” Shepherd said. “But this helps us get there.”

Campbell said there are no plans for DirecTV to launch a VOD service in the next 12-18 months, but Blockbuster already has proved a powerful marketing partner. The companies are looking at innovative, value-added marketing strategies that could include having a director introduce a movie, as Francis Ford Coppola did years ago for DirecTV’s PPV showing of “Apocalypse Now.”