Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pax TV Becomes "i"

Source: Broadcasting and Cable Paxson Communications says it is changing its name to "i"--an "independent broadcast platform for producers and syndicators," starting July 1.

During a transition phase, both the old Pax TV and the new "i" brands will appear onscreen, after which the Pax TV brand will continue on one of the digital multicast channels of its owned stations (it is multicasting on 45 of its 60 stations).

Paxson President Dean Goodman said the move was to make its operating structure more efficient and its programing more flexible.

Goodman says the new independent channel will be "a mix of original series, movies, specials, sports and news that appeals to a variety of interests. Supported by our broad distribution platform, we want to evolve our primary network as a strongly branded television destination for all viewers and for producers and syndicators seeking a national venue for their programs."

Goodman told B&C that the model for i would include both programming that Pax owns and time it would sell to syndicators and other producers.

For example, a small syndicator could buy its way onto a 60-station national launch pad for a show, then sell all the time it in.

Goodman would not say what the ratio of programming it paid for to programming time it sold would be, nor, citing ongoing litigation with one-third owner NBC, how the move jibed with that network's charge that migrating to a paid programming model violated its contract.

An NBC spokeswoman said the network was not aware of the changes. "It would not be unusual for NBC not to know what was going on," said Goodman. "But we are doing what is best for our company."

But for the family-friendly Pax TV, that means a move to digital, where there are currently few TV sets to receive it. Its fate likely depends on the government requiring cable to carry broadcasters' multicast channels. "That will be crucial to the entire industry," said Goodman, not just to Pax TV.

Goodman wouldn't give a timetable for the transition from Pax TV to "i" (the actual channel logo will not have quotation marks around it), but said it would be within a year.

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