news digest


VOD package tips hat to Sundance

Sundance Channel has created an exclusive VOD package customized for participating cable operators for January. In celebration of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, the package is titled "Festival Favorites" and features 10 films that debuted at previous Sundance fests, four of which will be offered in HD VOD. Each program opens with an introduction from fest director Geoff Gilmore. The participating operators are Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Brighthouse Networks and Mediacom. Sundance also said it has signed a yearlong branded entertainment and sponsorship agreement with Stella Artois, beginning with the title sponsorship of "31 Days of Sundance," the network's monthlong salute to the film festival.

More breathing fresh Oxygen

Oxygen has added 180,000 subscribers since NBC Universal acquired the network in November. Comcast (North Santa Barbara County, Calif.; Farmington, N.M.; Chattanooga, Tenn.), Telecom Cable (Fulshear, Texas), Bend Broadband (Bend, Ore.) and Buckeye Cablevision (Toledo, Ohio) are slated to launch the women's-targeted network by January. The network is available to nearly 74 million homes.

Philbin on Oscar duty

Regis Philbin will host the official 30-minute red-carpet arrivals show preceding the 80th Annual Academy Awards broadcast, executive producer Gil Cates and producer Dennis Doty said Monday. It will be Philbin's first stint hosting the warm-up, which will air on ABC at 5 p.m. PST on Feb. 24 from the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland.

'Penguins' to chill on Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation have teamed for a 26-episode, CG-animated comedy series tentatively titled "The Penguins of Madagascar," based on the penguin brothers in DWA's "Madagascar" and upcoming sequel, "Madagascar: The Crate Escape." The series will be produced at the Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank and is scheduled to premiere in early 2009. "Penguins" will be executive produced by Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley and feature the voices of Tom McGrath, Jeff Bennett, James Patrick Stuart, John DiMaggio and Danny Jacobs.

Gangwani closes books on Napster

Napster said Monday that CFO Nand Gangwani, who has been commuting between San Francisco and Los Angeles for the past four years, has decided to step down for personal reasons effective Dec. 31. Suzanne Colvin, vp finance and corporate controller, will serve as interim CFO; executive search firm Spencer Stuart has been hired to search for a permanent CFO. Gangwani will remain available to Napster after his last day to help with the transition, the company said.

Production a Reach for J2

Producer James Reach has joined J2 Pictures, the film production company founded by actor-producer Justin Berfield and his producing partner Jason Felts. Reach will oversee the production for most of J2's upcoming film slate. The company is set to shoot a feature film chronicling the life of Colombian cartel leader Pablo Escobar.