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Viacom Net Sees Greenberg

Mark Greenberg made his debut as the president of a new Viacom-led premium network last week at The Cable Show, showing up on the exhibit floor just hours after his appointment was announced.

As expected, Greenberg, a Showtime and HBO veteran, was officially named CEO of the premium-entertainment joint venture that’s been formed by Viacom, its Paramount Pictures unit, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Lionsgate.

Greenberg’s task will be to help line up distribution partners and nail down the content for the service. The joint venture, which was announced April 20, will create a yet-to-be-named pay TV network, broadband and on-demand service programmed with theatricals, library titles and original TV shows.

Greenberg, who stopped by the MTV Networks booth on the convention floor to chat with Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, declined to comment last week.

But during an interview, Dauman said that with Greenberg officially on board, the joint venture can ramp up its talks with possible distributors.

“We’ve already had a lot of discussions with potential distribution partners across many different industries, whether it’s cable companies, satellite companies, online companies, telcos,” Dauman said.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of interest,” he said. “Obviously, with Mark at the helm now, we’ll be able to have a much more focused effort. We’ve been listening to what the distributors are looking for in the service. We’ve been thinking about what the consumers want.”

Dauman said Greenberg, most recently working as a consultant, will follow through on those talks, which reportedly have included conversations with Blockbuster.

“The next several months, what Mark will be busy doing will be to take these initial discussions with distributors and bring the right ones to conclusion,” Dauman said.

Greenberg will also be deciding on the “content mix” the new premium service will have when it launches in fall 2009, according to Dauman.

“There’s the issue of what movies to pick from the combined libraries of the three partners,” he said. “There’s the issue of what additional content to acquire from third parties. There’s the issue of what original series to green-light. Each of the three partners has a number of ideas for original series for this service. Mark’s job will be to sift through all these great ideas and find the right one.”

Greenberg was formerly executive vice president for Showtime Networks. He also headed that company’s sales and affiliate-marketing efforts. During his tenure at Showtime, Greenberg created and launched Showtime On Demand, its HDTV channel and other media properties.

He also led the company’s sports and event programming group, Showtime Event Television, and pay-per-view initiatives, including its boxing franchise. He joined Showtime in 1989 from HBO.

Viacom’s MTVN unit will provide marketing and affiliate sales support for the joint venture.

“Mark will staff up as appropriate, focusing on the look and feel, content and marketing aspects of the service,” Dauman said. “But he will be able to rely on a lot of the infrastructure, support and marketing support that we can provide.”

The joint venture is committed to offering theatricals on the first day of their pay TV window, unlike other premium services, according to Dauman.

“The movies should be available as soon as possible, every movie,” he said. “Every movie should be available on-demand. We are going to look for a lot of interactivity.

“We’re going to have these movies available to consumers when they want it, where they want it. That’s a theme you hear around the floor here, but it’s not the way movies are currently distributed in the pay window. So we are looking at the most consumer friendly, the most content-rich premium service around.”