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Fox pix In Demand for PPV distrib

Co. becomes fourth major to agree to sell titles

NEW YORK — Twentieth Century Fox has climbed aboard the video-on-demand bandwagon for its theatrical movies, signing a deal with In Demand for both current releases like “Ice Age” and library product such as “Die Hard” and “Home Alone.”

The significance of the deal for In Demand, the dominant distributor of pay-per-view movies to cable subscribers in the U.S., is that Fox becomes the fourth major studio to agree to sell its titles to the distributor, joining Columbia, Universal and Warner Bros. In Demand also has access to the movies of DreamWorks and Artisan.

In Demand is looking better these days to studios like Fox, disillusioned because many of the grandiose plans to create lucrative new-technology platforms such as streaming movies onto the Internet have not lived up to the hype. Just a week ago, Fox bowed out of Movies.com, a joint venture with the Walt Disney Co. to search for fresh revenue streams in new media.

In Demand plans to rewrite its sales pitch to the three studios still holding out: Disney, Paramount and MGM/UA.

The studios get roughly 60% of VOD movie revenues, a figure that goes even higher if they make their movies available to In Demand earlier than the normal 30-60 days after the pictures reach the videostore.

Three million subscribers can now order pay-per-view pics with full VOD capability, allowing them to pause, stop or rewind a movie, just as though it were a prerecorded cassette in a VCR.

The owners of In Demand are four of the biggest cable operators in the U.S.: Time Warner Cable, AT&T Broadband, Comcast and Cox.