Playboy Has New HD Plan for Cable

Cable operators can't get Playboy TV in HDTV, but they can add a dash of Spice HD to customers' lives.

Spice Digital Networks will offer a late-night block of explicit adult-oriented programming to operators beginning in December, general manager Jeff Jenest said last week.

Playboy Entertainment Group, which owns Spice Digital Networks and Playboy TV, developed the nightly 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Spice HD block for operators after reaching an exclusive distribution deal for Playboy TV with Cablevision Systems Corp.'s Voom direct-broadcast satellite service.

An HD Studio

Original programming for the eight Spice digital networks is already being developed in new, multimillion-dollar, HD-enabled production facilities. "Our whole studio has been converted to HD, so it only makes sense that while we're producing programming in HD for Cablevision that we would also exploit the Spice programming for other platforms for other operators," Jenest said.

Overall, Spice HD will produce 1,200 hours of HDTV programming in 2004, utilizing the 1080i standard. Programming slated to appear on the service includes new, live daily shows such as The Nooner
and Spice Clips.

Spice HD also will premiere the new reality series, Unzipped, and movies showcasing the hottest stars in the adult-entertainment industry.

Spice is in negotiations with numerous MSOs about Spice HD, but no deals have been struck. Jenest said the rate card would not differ from Spice's typical 70% to 80% revenue split with operators.

Operators would determine the distribution format, he said, noting that most systems would likely proffer the HD programming via pay-per-view, but it could be morphed into a subscription offering as well.

For the most part, he doesn't expect operators to offer Spice HD programming on a daily basis, but rather on weekends, when most adult ordering takes place.

As with sports and concerts, Jenest said HD technology is expected to provide a revenue boost to the PPV category.

Category Driver?

"If you assume that high-def consumers are early adopters of technology, they are apt to sample a wide range of programming options," Jenest said. "Since adult is usually one of the drivers in someone's purchase decision to get more sophisticated equipment, we think [HD] buyers will use us at a higher rate than normal."

Producing Spice and Playboy TV programming in HDTV also provides a fringe benefit for viewers watching the company's standard PPV feeds.

"When you down-convert an HD signal to standard definition, the quality of that standard signal is still better than a standard-def production," Jenest said. "The viewing will be enhanced, making it all the more valuable to us to produce it in high-def."

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.