When Cablevision kicked off Interactive Optimum last September, it gave viewers plenty of reasons to stay home. But a soon-to-be-launched interactive opportunity may have them leaving home after they purchase movie and Broadway show tickets through their television sets.
Those capabilities will be available once the MSO launches Totally Hollywood TV and Totally Broadway TV. Negotiations are in the final stages, and it's possible the networks could be carried as soon as this week. Financial details are not yet available.
According to Mitch Rubenstein, CEO of the networks parent company, Hollywood Media, both are "creating services for niches that don't exist and that's what I like to do. We think these channels are interesting because they're fresh content that has not been on cable before."
Rubenstein's previous niche filler was the Sci Fi Channel, which he and Laurie Silvers, Hollywood Media's president, converted from a genre into a network.
"If you're not Fox and willing to make such a huge investment to go into a category with incumbents, the way to be successful is to launch a service that creates its own niche and category," he says. That's the idea with the ticket services.
Totally Broadway TV is the more ambitious of the two. Viewers will be able to tune into an on-demand menu of Broadway rehearsals and interviews. Viewers can also sit back and watch the carousel (not the Rodgers and Hammerstein type) of content if they don't feel up to deciding.
But the business comes from viewers' purchasing tickets through the channel by using a remote. Hollywood Media also owns Broadway.com, a site that gives visitors another place to purchase tickets.
Unlike Telecharge or Ticketmaster, which can require a theater-goer to purchase tickets months in advance in order to get quality seats, Broadway.com's selection includes blocks of tickets taken out of the database before Telecharge or Ticketmaster start selling to the public.
Rubenstein says that, if tickets are sold out for a given date or seat locations are unsatisfactory, a subscriber can phone or e-mail Totally Broadway TV for help.
Drawing off of Hollywood Media's other properties is a key to the new services. CinemaSource, for example, provides electronic movie time data for newspapers and other outlets. That data will play a major part in Totally Hollywood TV, which will allow viewers to purchase movie tickets.
The two networks will join a number of other offerings in Interactive Optimum, which, as of March 31, had 24,100 subscribers. The $9.95 monthly charge gives viewers access to 27 digital channels and 45 digital music channels. VOD content available includes MagRack, Fox TV on Demand (which includes The Shield
and 24) and 13 On Demand, which provides 50 to 60 hours of content from PBS station WNET New York.
The Hollywood Media networks join other enhanced-television content, currently 17 channels. Among the services offered are MSG Game Director, which gives viewers the opportunity to change camera angles of New York Mets games and events from Madison Square Garden; TechTV Interactive, which gives access to past reviews on electronics equipment and other content; and a MuchMusic channel that allows viewers to choose the videos.
Like the other networks, Hollywood Media owns its content. "The underlying foundation for both of these services," says Rubenstein, "is we own the content."
Hollywood Media expects to reach 1.5 million to 2 million households by the end of the year, he says, adding that the company's efforts will be focused on East Coast cable operators. The financial upside for cable operators is that they get a percentage of ticket sales.