The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Viewer's Choice pay-per-view to be shut down in September, Bell Media says

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TORONTO - Viewer's Choice, the pay-per-view movie and live event service that was once dominant in Eastern Canada, will soon be part of the entertainment graveyard alongside the VHS tape and Laserdisc.

A Bell Media spokeswoman confirmed to The Canadian Press on Tuesday that it plans to shutter all of the Viewer's Choice channels on Sept. 30.

The decision comes after Bell, which is owned by BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE), became majority owner of the service when it acquired the assets from Astral last year. The remainder of the operation is held by fellow telecom company Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B).

"The two co-owners ... both have their own pay-per-view services and thus feel there is no need to keep the service operating as a standalone entity," said Bell Media spokeswoman Amy Doary in an emailed statement.

"(Viewers Choice) will be working with its affiliate partners to ensure that a smooth transition to another provider of pay-per-view will occur."

Doary said the decision will result in one employee layoff.

Launched in 1991, Viewer's Choice promoted its services as an alternative to the video store, offering recent movies for a comparable price to customers in Eastern Canada. Since then it has expanded to serve the entire country under a chance in its licence from broadcast regulators.

For years it was also the exclusive Canadian provider of major sporting events like Wrestlemania from the WWE and helped build the reputation of mixed martial arts company the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The channels also became the home for various other event programming like concert series, boxing matches and pornographic entertainment.

However, the over-the-air concept became dated with the invention of on-demand services that deliver movies with the press of a button, rather than waiting for a specific start time.

Some of the country's largest cable providers have already found homes for their live sports per-per-view programming or alternatives for movies.

Rogers owns Sportsnet PPV, which shows out-of-market sporting events, while Bell owns a competing pay-per-view movie service called Vu.

In Quebec, cable provider Videotron operates French-language pay-per-view channels under the name Canal Indigo.

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