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Playboy Debuts Digital PPV Amid Op Angst

Playboy TV is looking to capitalize on advanced cable technology with several digital and video-on-demand offerings, but it's unclear whether operators will bite.

The network will launch its already delayed, mostly unedited Spice Platinum adult three-pack of pay-per-view services next month — along with an "instant access" video-on-demand service — in an effort to generate incremental revenue from the profitable adult-programming category.

But thus far, operators have been lukewarm toward the channels, particularly the Spice Platinum services. Playboy is expected to launch its Spice Platinum, Spice Platinum 2 and Spice Platinum Live pay-per-view adult channels in May, two months after their scheduled debut.

The launch of the services — which can be offered on several different platforms and packages — was delayed due to technical problems related to the development of a necessary encoder, said Playboy Networks worldwide president Jim English.

The company is also talking to several MSOs about distributing the adult three-pack, English said. "There's interest in the service and there are affiliates ready to sign up."

But several operators that offer digital services said they're not considering the Spice Platinum services due to their ultra-explicit content — even though they concede the service would rake in significant incremental revenue.

"I would love to offer the service because I know there's an audience out there for that type of product," said one MSO executive. "But I know there would be a backlash within the community."

An AT&T spokeswoman was more blunt, saying that the MSO was "not interested."

In an effort to extend its brand to future video-on-demand platforms, Playboy is launching an instant-access service, which will offer nearly 1,000 titles of licensed films and Playboy original programs.

The programming would be offered in three forms: the traditional cable adult standard, a more liberally edited version and in unedited form, English said. The service can be integrated with an operator's other VOD offerings.

Also on tap: a new, weekly half-hour anthology series, Sexy Urban Legends. The show, scheduled to premiere this summer, will proffer adaptations of contemporary fables shared by Internet users, English said.