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UPDATE: Uni VOD Deal Boosts In Demand’s Projected Subscriber Base

27 Jul, 2001 By: Jessica Wolf

Vivendi Universal’s non-exclusive deal to expand its pay-per-view relationship with distributor In Demand to include video-on-demandrights marks the first time a major studio has signed a long-term VOD agreement.

The agreement will allow the cable programmer, beginning Aug. 1, to release current and future Universal theatrical releases, including such hits as The Mummy Returns and The Family Man, as well as catalog and television titles, on VOD around 45 days after they hit home video which cuts closer into 60-day PPV window. In some cases that 45-day window could get even shorter, says Joe Boyle, publicist for In Demand.Last year the programmer was able to offer The Sixth Sense on VOD just 30 days after its home video release.

The deal with In Demand comes on the heels of the cable programmer’s similar agreement last month with Artisan Entertainment. In Demand has a three-year deal with Artisan, which gives the programmer VOD and PPV rights to all of the studio’s current releases like The Blair Witch Project as well as upcoming theatrical projects like Dirty Dancing 2.

Boyle says currently about 500,000 of In Demand’s 29 million cable subscribers are VOD users. He predicts that number to double by the endof the year with an even bigger explosion in 2002, largely thanks to deals like the ones his company has struck with Artisan and Universal.

He says companies like AT&T Broadband, AOL Time Warner Inc, Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications — which own In Demand — are investing millions of dollars in getting VOD to more homes “and now they are going to accelerate deployment. Before this we really weren’t getting content — it’s a chicken-and-egg situation.

“Studios want to make sure that they do it [offer VOD rights] in a way that follows their strategy,” Boyle says. “And they are in the process of creating those strategies.”

In Demand has been distributing Universal titles through its pay-per-view service since 1994. Studios usually get 50% of a title’s pay-per-view revenue. In Demand declined to comment on industry speculation that this deal will offer Universal closer to 60% ofthe VOD take.

Representatives from Vivendi Universal were unavailable at press time.

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