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Kavner to Head Hotel Pay-Per-View Firm

September 12, 1996|SALLIE HOFMEISTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A year after leaving Creative Artists Agency as a new media specialist, Robert Kavner will try his hand as an entrepreneur, running a new company that delivers pay-per-view services in hotel rooms.

Kavner, who joined CAA's consulting practice in July 1994 after serving as chief financial officer and then chief executive of multimedia for AT&T, was named president and chief executive of On Command Corp., a company formed from the merger announced in April of On Command Video and its rival, SpectraVision.

On Command's parent company, Ascent Entertainment, the owner of the Beacon Communications movie and TV studio and the Denver Nuggets, bought SpectraVision out of bankruptcy.

Together, On Command and SpectraVision provide interactive video services--including movies-on-demand, video games and on-screen checkout as well as cable channels--to about 900,000 hotel rooms, all but 100,000 of them in the U.S.

The merger makes On Command Corp. the largest supplier of its type in the country. Of the 1.8 million hotel rooms in America, about 1.3 million are wired for video on demand.

Kavner sees vast opportunities to expand the service by tapping into the high-demographic profile of hotel guests as well as the needs of business travelers.

"Up until now, this industry has been focused on signing up more hotel rooms in the U.S.," he said. "Now that the market is almost fully absorbed, the industry will move to more sensible programming."

Kavner could envision a shopping channel that features a high-end retailer a month, exercise videos for women or service programming for business travelers like how-to programs on giving a sales presentation. He says the company's mission is to provide those services to the lodging industry but could see expanding into apartment buildings, hospitals and prisons. It would not, however, compete with local cable companies.

Kavner was lured to CAA to build the agency's business in the converging area of multimedia, marrying Hollywood and high tech. But he left to form his own firm last year, shortly after superagent Michael Ovitz, who had recruited him, joined the corporate world as president of Walt Disney Co.

Kavner continued to serve as a consultant over the last year to Tele-TV, the video joint venture of three Bell operating companies whose plans to compete with cable were recently scaled back. His contract with Tele-TV is almost up, Kavner said, adding, "I think the telephone companies are going to surprise the marketplace with the novelty of their service," which combines national and local programming in a digital format delivered to homes by microwaves.

SpectraVision pioneered pay-per-view hotel movie services and was bought by Marvin Davis in 1989. It was reorganized under the Bankruptcy Code in 1993 and again in 1995. Once Ascent completes the purchase of SpectraVision, On Command Video will be a publicly traded company controlled by Ascent.

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