Films to be available 1-2 months after homevid release

By Enrique Rivero, Marc Graser

A day after homevid giant Blockbuster said it was close to signing a video-on-demand deal with Vivendi Universal, the studio announced it will also make its films available to digital cabler Intertainer, in a similar deal.

Under the multiyear output deal with Universal, Culver City, Ca.-based Intertainer will have VOD rights to both new and catalog titles from Universal beginning later this month.

New films will be available to Intertainer in the same window as pay-per-view, generally a month or two after a pic's release on cassettes and DVDs, with one of the first titles being "Bring It On."

Pact also includes select television titles, according to a spokeswoman from Intertainer. Titles would be available over Intertainer's digital cable VOD service.

The agreement with Vivendi Universal is significant because it shows that some studios are willing to offer their content to independent VOD services, even as they move toward starting their own.

For Intertainer, Vivendi Universal is another notch in its belt after signing licenses with Warner Bros., New Line, Fox and Columbia-TriStar Television, among others.

Although several of the major studios have confirmed that they are either starting their own VOD services or partnering with other studios, Universal has yet to do either.

Sony plans to roll out its Internet-based MovieFly service this summer, enabling consumers to download full-length feature films to their computers. Warner has been in serious talks with Sony to provide Warner content to the service. Disney and News Corp. are working on their own services.

Disney, which had previously issued some third-party VOD licenses, has retrenched in recent days to rethink that strategy.

"It behooves them to have their content on other services because it means more revenues (for them)," the Intertainer spokeswoman said.

Some studios have been quietly hoping to avoid being required to provide content to third parties for fear of giving away a piece of their revenue as they do with retailers like Blockbuster and cable networks like HBO and MTV.

During a conference call to discuss earnings with analysts on Tuesday, Blockbuster chairman John Antioco said that the retailer was a close to signing a multiplatform deal with Universal giving the company VOD rights, among others. Blockbuster threatened not to put out copies of this week's new Universal releases "Bring It On" and "Rocky and Bullwinkle" until Universal agreed in principle to the deal.

Intertainer says the timing of Wednesday's announcement was entirely coincidental and that the deal had been in the works for about a year.

"We have a done deal, and we were able to negotiate a deal on the strength of our service, rather than using coercive means," said the Intertainer spokeswoman.

Universal could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this month, Intertainer announced a non-exclusive licensing agreement with Warner Music Group to deliver music videos from the Atlantic Group, Elektra Entertainment Group, London-Sire Records and Warner Bros. Records Inc. over the and platforms.