Fox, DirecTV Unveil VOD Bypass Plan, Preempt Ad-Supported TV Window

News Corp. and DirecTV have upped the stakes in the burgeoning video-on-demand marketplace, offering exclusive downloads of TV shows before they ever appear on the traditional venues of network or cable television.

News Corp. will start this process with its FX Network shows, as viewers can download exclusive TV episodes 24 to 48 hours prior to the initial cable airings on FX for $2.99. This will be available through DirecTV's new digital video recorder. FX's shows will include "The Shield," "Rescue Me," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and "30 Days."

Later in the year, Fox Broadcasting Co. will also be part of the DirecTV deal--but more akin to recent video-on-demand deals in having viewers accessing network shows after their initial run on the network.

For this, viewers will only pay $0.99 a download--versus $1.99 for most of VOD deals. Fox shows will be available hours after their network runs for up to six or seven days. Fox shows will include "24" and "Prison Break." News Corp owns Fox Broadcasting, FX Networks, and DirecTV.



This is the first major deal for the Fox network in the video-on-demand universe. Fox still needs to talk with its affiliates regarding exactly when the deal starts and which shows will be included. Other Fox shows under consideration are "American Dad" and upcoming mid-season shows such as "The Loop."

This has been a touchy area for TV stations. Some analysts say video-on-demand deals can eat into revenue that TV stations can generate through advertising sales. News Corp., however, doesn't have the same situation with its cable affiliates with regard to FX. Cable operators are already on the same side as News Corp.

"MSOs [Multiple System Cable Operators] are already in the on-demand business," said Bill Carroll, vp and director of programming for Katz Television Group.

Fox Broadcasting network will also be using DirecTV as a promotional tool in offering other exclusive video material, including weekly highlights of Fox shows, some full-length television episodes, and behind-the-scenes features of Fox theatrical films and TV shows.

This is not the first video-on-demand type deal for DirecTV. Last November, NBC Universal struck an agreement with DirecTV for its top network and cable shows to be available for $0.99 a download within hours after they air on NBC Universal networks.

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