Mouse House making U.K. demands

Disney makes first Blighty VOD pact

Britain’s Channel 4 has acquired the exclusive U.K. video-on-demand rights to Disney’s “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” marking one of the first such arrangements in Europe between a Hollywood studio and its TV station client. Channel already airs the two shows in its over-the-air lineup.

The Mouse House’s first European deal for VOD rights to its network series is in line with the studio’s focus on new technology to enhance its content and expand distribution.

Terms of the Disney-C4 deal were not available.

All the Hollywood studios are edging toward such arrangements in key territories abroad for their hit series. The revenue will at first be a pittance compared to what the foreign station clients are paying for over-the-air rights, but the value of these foreign VOD windows is expected to grow quickly over the next two or three years.

The pay-per-view VOD service will launch today when all of “Lost” season one will be available on-demand via the British station’s Web site and to digital TV customers via cable operator NTL Telewest’s on-demand service.

Episodes of the series can be purchased for 99 pence ($1.76) and watched an unlimited number of times within a 24-hour period. Access to the service will be limited to the U.K. Cabler NTL Telewest has also secured the rights to air the content in high def, with that service available to 2 million of its customers.

Disney exec VP Tom Toumazis, who has oversight of the company’s international TV deals in Europe, said: “We’re committed to working with partners with strong new-media strategies, such as Channel 4, to bring our hit programming to viewers in innovative ways. We also remain committed to providing legitimate ways in which to download content and believe that offering these two series in this way is a significant step.”

Comments from Channel Four execs Tuesday during a rundown of the station’s quarterly results suggest that the company plans to launch a full VOD service across multiple platforms later this year.

Following the launch of “Lost” season one today, on-demand episodes of season two will be available via the C4 Web site and to subs of NTL Telewest 14 days after their first U.K. broadcast; on-demand episodes of “Desperate Housewives” season one will be available beginning May 4, with season-two episodes available later that month.