- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2006

Comcast says ‘Boo!’

Comcast Corp. and Sony Pictures Entertainment have a frightening trick up their sleeves for Halloween.

The companies will introduce a new horror and thriller network this October through video-on-demand, the first collaboration between the two firms under a deal to create new cable channels, Associated Press reports.

The as-yet-unnamed new channel was announced yesterday at the National Cable and Television Association’s annual National Show Conference in Atlanta. It will feature more than 1,000 horror and thriller movies along with TV shows from the Sony/MGM libraries, including the big-screen thrillers “The Silence of the Lambs,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Panic Room.”

The channel, available free of charge to digital subscribers, will feature at least 20 films and some TV series, making up 40 to 70-plus hours of programming. Nearly a fourth of its content will be changed every two weeks.

The channel will be supported by advertising that targets the highly desirable youth-to-young-professional market. Ad revenue will be shared by Comcast and Sony Pictures of Culver City, Calif.

Both companies said the channel will be the first dedicated to the horror and thriller genre. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator with more than 21 million customers, said 20 percent of feature films released by major studios in 2005 were part of the genre. A third of those movies topped the box office on their debut despite the skewering many received from critics.

Comcast decided to offer the channel through on-demand to keep subscribers from switching to satellite TV, which cannot duplicate the service, AP reports. The on-demand service enables digital subscribers to watch a library of films, TV shows and other content whenever they want.

Desperate’ maneuver?

The Walt Disney Co. has another way for viewers to get their fix of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.” The hit shows soon will be available for free online, but consumers won’t be able to fast forward through the commercials, Reuters news agency reports.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the move is an attempt to bring in new advertising revenues. The plan is expected to be announced today by Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, the newspaper reported.

The practice of must-see commercials will, Disney hopes, turn the shows into a profit-generating business.

The Journal says 10 advertisers already have signed up for the initiative, including Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble and Unilever. Episodes of the shows being offered will become available the morning after they air on TV, the Journal reported.

TV broadcasters are looking for new business models to counter the threat posed by digital video recorders such as TiVo, which allow consumers to fast-forward through ads. Disney already has a deal to sell downloads of ABC shows through Apple Computer’s ITunes Music Store.

Disney was not immediately available for comment.

Kiefer’s sweet deal

Kiefer Sutherland has signed a new deal that will ask him to work three more days for Fox.

Of course, for the star of the network’s hit series “24,” that means three more seasons as terrorist basher Jack Bauer.

Mr. Sutherland’s new multimillion-dollar contract, which is set to begin in June, calls for the actor to continue on the hit Fox drama, in which a season covers the course of one day, for three more years. It also includes a two-year development deal for his soon-to-be-introduced production banner, Reuters reports.

Details on the deal were sketchy, but sources pegged the acting portion alone at more than $40 million for the three seasons, which could make Mr. Sutherland the highest-paid actor in a network drama series.

Though the deal locks him in for three years beyond the current fifth season of “24,” the 20th TV/Imagine TV-produced show so far has been picked up for one additional season.

The development portion of the deal is said to include overhead and a development fund for Mr. Sutherland’s company. Mr. Sutherland will hire a development executive and will begin to develop and executive produce projects for TV as well as for the Internet and wireless devices.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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