News

Networks Not Biting Yet On Apple’s SVOD Pitch

11/07/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Cable network executives would not comment last week on Apple’s proposed $30-a-month subscription video-on-demand buffet package.

The Wall Street Journal’s All Things D site reported Nov. 2 that Apple is pitching networks on the proposal, which would allow consumers to access iTunes’ full complement of cable and broadcast network-based shows — currently offered on an individual basis for $1.99 for a standard signal and $2.99 for an HD feed — for a flat monthly subscription. It wouldn’t require separate hardware, such as the Apple TV set-top.

Most cable networks offer their top shows for download via iTunes. The Journal speculated Disney might bite first on SVOD, based on past tie-ins with iTunes, but said no programmers have committed to the idea and further said Apple has floated the concept in the past.

Even if networks decide to take Apple up on its offer, Leichtman Research Group president Bruce Leichtman doesn’t believe there will be much consumer interest for the package. He said Apple has not fared well with sales of individual TV shows, pointing out that consumers downloaded only 100 million shows from iTunes between 2007 and 2008; in contrast, users downloaded 2 billion songs.

“Consumers have shown little to no interest in buying TV through iTunes,” he said. “The subscription package is like a concept in search of a market.”

AETN Cuts Follow Lifetime Merger

Layoffs that were expected as a result of Lifetime’s integration into A&E Television Networks began last week and are expected to reduce about 100 of the two companies’ combined 1,100 jobs.

Disney-ABC TV, Hearst and NBC Universal last month completed merging the programming entities into AETN, under CEO Abbe Raven. An A&E spokesman confirmed the company is making a 10% reduction in the employee base, mostly in support areas like legal, accounting, finance and public relations.

Executive staffs of both A&E and Lifetime will remain with the merged entity, including Lifetime CEO Andrea Wong, who reports to Raven; JoAnn Alfano, Lifetime executive vice president of entertainment; and Lifetime vice president of distribution Lori Conkling, who will work alongside AETN executive vice president of distribution David Zagin, a spokesman said.

Comcasters in Philly Endure Transit Strike

Last Tuesday (Nov. 3), after Major League Baseball’s World Series moved to New York from Philadelphia, unionized subway and bus workers went on strike over wages and pension payments. The strike was still on as of Friday; previous strikes have lasted five days and 40 days.

At the Comcast Center, which has 2,900 employees in the city’s tallest office building, employees were forming informal carpools to get to work, Comcast spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said. Many employees were able to take suburban rail lines, which were still operating; the Comcast building is actually above Suburban Station in Center City.

“Everybody’s just trying to be patient and come up with creative solutions,’’ Moyer said. “We’re hearing what you expect to hear: It’s taking longer to get places.’’ The company Intranet is linking to regional rail line schedules, and employees are encouraged to discuss possible flex time options with supervisors.

Union leaders were scheduled to continue meetings Friday with Gov. Ed Rendell.

Ad Execs Channel Sportsman Within

To catch the eye of advertising executives, Sportsman Channel’s business development team sent a package to 500 agencies containing ways to channel one’s “inner sportsman” at the workplace.

The game presents props and various scenarios, and the idea is to play them through, take pictures, post them on a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=119600943860&ref=ts), and be eligible to win cash and prizes, spokeswoman Michelle Scheuermann said.

Scenarios are: avoiding the boss who comes stampeding into your cubicle, angry because someone has vandalized his portrait, by hiding behind a neglected plant on your desk; shooting holes in your laptop after a system error corrupts a week’s worth of work; and baiting a co-worker with candy fish, then sticking them with your work, leaving you free for a Friday’s worth of Facebook surfing.

Gummy fish, bullet-hole stickers and “office camouflage” came in the kit, along with scenario cards. Sportsman Channel sent The Wire some images of game players and we’re wondering: How do they keep their plants so green?

'Pennsylvania’s C-SPAN’ Makes Veteran Moves

The Pennsylvania Cable Network — PCN, or “the C-SPAN of Pennsylvania” — turns 30 this year, and on Dec. 6 marks another milestone: the 500th episode of 13-year original series PA Books. Network president Brian Lockman hosts the show, which this time will feature six veterans who were interviewed for two books put out by the network: World War II: In Their Own Words and the September-issued World War II Reflections.

The books, in turn, draw from more than 200 hours of interviews with Pennsylvania veterans for the PCN series World War II: In Their Own Words. Prisoners of war, paratroopers who served in Normandy and Bastogne, a 17-year-old seaman on the USS Intrepid when it was hit by kamikaze pilots on Thanksgiving Day in 1944 — the stories are remarkable. As is the longevity of the network, supported by fees from 150 Keystone State cable systems and in 3.3 million Pennsylvania homes.

“Our 35-member staff worked countless hours to bring extensive coverage of the Pennsylvania state budget impasses, which ended after 101 days,” communications vice president Michelle Harter said. “The network became the place for the latest budget news, whether it was live on the network, streamed on our Website or delivered as news on our RSS feed or Twitter.”

Happy 30th, PCN.

September