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MORE FEATURES, LESS FLESH : PLAYBOY CHANNEL TO CHANGE FORMAT

The Playboy Channel, plagued by subscriber cancellations and a lack of new subscribers, plans to offer more features and less flesh in an attempt to broaden viewer appeal.

The announcement was made Tuesday at the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, where executives of the cable-TV network screened a sample reel of the channel’s new lineup.

Although Michael Brandman, president of Playboy Programs, said that “the channel is not going soft . . . it’s just as sensually oriented if not more so,” he did acknowledge that “we’re trying to balance sexual material with entertainment.”

The promotional reel, at least, was tamer than usual Playboy Channel fare.

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The Playboy Channel has been criticized by some cable operators as being obscene. Some operators, including Group W, refuse to carry the channel.

Asked if the new format might persuade reluctant cable franchises to carry the channel, Brandman said, “We hope that will be the case.” The new lineup, which includes such shows as “Playboy Comedy Theater,” “The Great Lounge Acts” and some Frank Capra films, might help cable operators “overcome . . . a resistance to what they categorized as ‘sleaze,’ ” according to Brandman.

“The concept of the old channel,” explained Que Spaulding, president of Playboy Programming Distribution, “was purely sex on demand. That didn’t reflect the ‘80s attitude of not pandering. . . . (Subscribers) are disenchanted with the sex-on-demand format.”

The new Playboy Channel “is less exploitative of women,” Spaulding said. “Or, it exploits men equally.”

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Brandman said that Playboy’s research indicates “a large portion of the disconnects were from women.” To correct that problem, Brandman said, the channel will offer more programming geared toward female viewers, including more segments of “Women on Sex” and a show featuring male strippers.

Launched two years ago, the Playboy Channel has about 800,000 subscribers, Brandman said. Brandman said the channel’s subscriber base has grown little since then. Nonetheless, Richard Sowa, senior vice president, Playboy Video Corp., said the channel “will report a profit” at the end of its fiscal year in June.


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