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Hubbard Pushes Hollywood-Based Network

Hoping to capitalize on the value of movies in cable's new digital environment, a group of former cable and satellite executives next year plan to launch a new 24-hour basic network focused on the film industry.

The executives hope that Moviewatch — through its system-specific tailored promotion of video-on-demand and premium movies, as well as its no-fee rate card — will have wide appeal among operators.

"Movies are the big driver for the operators," said Moviewatch chairman Stanley Hubbard, who is also chairman and CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting Inc. subsidiary Hubbard Media Group, which is developing the channel. "The way to help sell [VOD and digital premium services] is to make the consumer more aware of the titles that are available to them."

Unlike typical barker channels that run promotions for upcoming pay-per-view, VOD and premium movies, Moviewatch will build original series and specials around the movie industry, said network president of television Rod Perth, the former USA Networks Entertainment president. Moviewatch's signature program figures to be Dailies, a SportsCenter- or Entertainment Tonight-like show focusing specifically on the latest movie news.

The network will also develop trivia and game shows, reality programming and a discussion series executives liken to Cable News Network's The Capital Gang. All told, Moviewatch has nine pilots in production.

"Ultimately, the network has to be compelling and entertain viewers," Perth said. "It also can't be a barker channel. It has to have its own voice and maintain editorial authority."

More importantly for operators, the network pledges to help boost VOD, PPV and digital premium-network sales by promoting movies currently airing on their systems.

When a movie currently running on the system is mentioned within one of Moviewatch's shows, the network will be able to provide immediate on-screen, localized information to viewers about that title, including its playtime and channel, Hubbard said. This server-based localization system would be positioned at the head end and maintained by Moviewatch.

A Minute of Promos

In addition, the network will offer 60 seconds of promotion at the 29- and 59-minute marks each hour, touting the schedule of upcoming PPV, VOD and premium movies on the system.

Hubbard, formerly president of the DBS service U.S. Satellite Broadcasting, said there are hundreds of movies available to consumers on a monthly basis through a variety of networks on various platforms, including basic, pay TV, PPV and VOD. But it's virtually impossible for operators to market and promote the majority of those titles, so Moviewatch would help expose viewers to quality movies that they may not know is available.

"We didn't want to be another barker channel or an Entertainment Tonight
clone," Hubbard said. "We wanted to be a source for ultimate movie information and entertainment, with an eye toward finding opportunities to get the viewer to buy and watch more movies."

The network is also hoping its free rate card will further entice operators to carry the service. The network would actually pay operators to carry the service in return for substantial subscriber penetration levels, Hubbard added, although Moviewatch would not reveal specific figures.

By offering the network free to operators, Hubbard conceded that in the new world of digital cable, the traditional distribution model of operators paying networks must inevitably change.

Time Warner Cable vice president of corporate communications Mike Luftman confirmed that MSO officials met with MovieWatch executives, saying Time Warner is "assessing" the proposed network's pitch.