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On Stage, On Demand

2/22/2004 7:00 PM Eastern

A new, music-based network is looking to reach young and aging fans alike with contemporary and vintage concerts and documentary programming on a video-on-demand basis.

The independently financed Concert Network lets users groove to tunes from classic bands like Led Zeppelin.

The independently financed Concert Network, which launched last September, features premiere and unreleased live-to-tape concerts spanning all musical genres, as well as shoulder music programming consisting of artist interviews and documentaries, said network president and COO Michael Shimbo. Much of the programming is broken up into short-form blocks of songs per performer, but full-length concerts are also accessible.

"We're creating the first dedicated home to live music on television and using VOD to launch it," he said. "We're bullish on the fact that VOD will become more mainstream and prevalent over time."

The network's programming is currently offered free through Comcast's VOD platform as well as In Demand and TVN Entertainment, and is available in about 9 million households, according to Shimbo. The content varies from distributor to distributor, with the company proffering about 10 to 20 hours of programming, refreshed about every two weeks.

"The programming includes anything that represents good television, from Led Zeppelin and Johnny Cash concerts to Bjork and No Doubt," he said. "Since good music is timeless to a certain extent, we could feature a concert from the Allman Brothers in the '70s to a show that was recorded last week."

With much of the current music network programming targeted to teens and young adults, executives said that the network would appeal to older audiences, who are often the most prolific buyers of music CD's and concert tickets.

"People 35 and older buy more than 78% of the music in this country," said Concert Network CEO and co-founder Jeff Shultz in a statement. "Concert attendance and DVD video sales remain strong growing areas of the U.S. music business."

Over the next few years, Shimbo said the network could blossom into a 24-hour, linear basic service, replete with license fees and an advertising revenue stream. "We're using VOD as a way to develop a brand and to learn what our viewers want to watch to help quantify what could potentially be a 24-hour programming wheel," he said.

Traditionally, televised concerts have not performed well on a pay-per-view basis. In 2002, the last year for which event numbers were available, music programming made up 9% of all events, but only represented 1% of all PPV revenue.

But Shimbo said early returns from its VOD offerings show that its concerts have drawn as many or more viewers than typical music-video programming.

"We're confident that live music on a VOD basis, where people can find what they want to watch when they want to watch it, can attract viewers," he said.

As for the artists, Shimbo said the network is an excellent forum for groups like Kiss, which don't make music videos but instead use their live performances to market new music and albums. "Artists that are proving themselves in the touring community are very interested in producing concert videos," he said.

September