Moviewatch's Pitch: No Fee to Operators

Although it has yet to announce an official launch date, start-up digital network Moviewatch is aggressively courting operators with a free licensing fee offer based on subscriber rollouts.

Within the last two months the network — which will offer original programming about the movie industry — has signed affiliation deals with the National Cable Television Cooperative and with Insight Communications Co. Those companies join direct-broadcast satellite service DirecTV Inc. as early supporters of the Hubbard Media Group-owned service.

Moviewatch president of television Rod Perth said the network's message of zero fees has resonated with operators who are struggling with fast-rising programming costs.

Operators that launch the service to at least 20 percent of their subscriber base and meet incrementally increasing household benchmarks each year will be able to offer Moviewatch for free for the life of the deal, said network senior vice president of affiliate relations John DeGarmo.

But Moviewatch's proposal is something of a double-edged sword: the network won't set a launch date until it gets enough subscribers on board to interest advertisers, which represent its core source of revenues. Late last year, the network had set a Jan. 21 launch date, but has since pushed that back to at least fourth-quarter 2003.

Perth declined to disclose the network's launch subscriber target.

"We feel very positive about our subscriber momentum," Perth said. "We feel good that the launch will be this year, but the actual date is dependent on reaching as many people as we can because our revenues are based on advertising."

The network is negotiating with several "major players" within the industry, he added, although he would not reveal further details.

Moviewatch's programming will focus on films in all windows of release, with an emphasis on pay per view (PPV), video-on-demand (VOD) and premium channels.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.