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Fox Tackling Alternative Distribution Cautiously

18 Jan, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Fox Broadcasting Company may be more cautious in its efforts to distribute content on alternative channels, including video-on-demand and portable media devices, according to the network's president Peter Liguori.

Speaking Tuesday to members of The TV Critics Assoc. in Pasadena, Calif., Liguori said alternative distribution of TV content was in the “nascent stages” and Fox's approach was not necessarily to be the “first with announcements” but to have the “best strategy” going forward.

“We're taking a more measured approach to what works and what may not work and I think, in the world of new technology, that it is the quintessential marathon, not a sprint and we are looking at it appropriately,” said Liguori.

Those comments would appear to counter efforts by Fox Entertainment Group, which, beginning in March, said it would offer episodes of FX's “The Shield,” “Rescue Me” and “30 Days,” among others, to DirecTV subscribers for $2.99 up to 48 hours before their initial TV broadcasts.

Episodes of Fox Broadcasting Company's “24” and “Prison Break” would be available for 99 cents six to seven days following their TV broadcasts.

Fox, like DirecTV a subsidiary of News Corp., appeared to be the latest media company to join the burgeoning trend among content providers repurposing programming for on-demand distribution on the Internet and portable media devices.

Liguori, who reportedly said he was “neutral” on Walt Disney Co.'s decision to sell episodic downloads of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” on Apple Computer's iTunes music service, said he was mindful of the impact alternative distribution could have on Fox affiliates.

“If you're just going out there with grapeshot, I think that puts at risk your relationship with the affiliates and the best way to take care of the network business,” Liguori said. “Being a counter-puncher in new technology is probably not a bad idea.”

Liguori said he would rather others defined the category while focusing on the value of the content.

“We want to make sure we're putting the best content forward,” he said. “If in fact we have the best content, we're going to be able to take advantage of all the other distribution sources.”

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