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Virtual box office lands TV role

Hollywood Media introduces two new cable channels that let consumers purchase movie and theater tickets using their television sets.

Entertainment company Hollywood Media introduced two new cable channels that let consumers purchase movie and theater tickets using their television sets.

The new channels, called Totally Hollywood TV and Totally Broadway TV, are among the first major attempts to provide e-commerce services through television. The channels debuted Thursday in the New York City market through Cablevision System's interactive cable service.

Cable subscribers receive a special remote control and cable box, and their orders are routed from the TV to the cable operator's servers. From there, the order is routed over the Internet to participating theaters through online ticket agencies Movietickets.com and Broadway.com. All ticket orders are actually processed through those businesses, said Chief Executive Mitchell Rubenstein.

Customers pay via credit card when they order their tickets, and pick them up at the venue. Tickets are available for about 25 percent of the movie theaters and for more than 30 theater venues in New York City. Boca Raton, Fla.-based Hollywood Media charges a transaction fee of 17.5 percent per theater ticket and 50 cents to $1 per movie ticket.

Customers get the channels through a video-on-demand service called Interactive Optimum, which costs $9.95 a month in addition to standard cable fees. The channels also give show information, trailers and reviews.

Hollywood Media is negotiating with other cable companies to expand into other cities and towns, Rubenstein said Friday. Rubenstein said these kinds of interactive TV services are poised for growth. The company expects the channels to be available to as many as 2 million cable subscribers by the end of the year.

"I really think it's the future of TV," Rubenstein said. "People are tired of having programming spilled to them in a linear way where they can't control it. We are right on the edge of what's going to be a huge wave."

Hollywood Media owns a minority stake in Movietickets.com. Broadway.com is a Hollywood Media subsidiary.