FOX IS LAST IN(TERACTIVE) BUT SAYS IT WON'T BE LEAST

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Twentieth Century Fox is playing catch-up in the interactive arena.

Fox last week announced the formation of Fox Interactive, making it the last major studio to open a new-media division. Fox Interactive will be responsible for exploiting new-media uses of the studio's films as well as other properties of sister News Corp. companies.

Theodore M. Hoff was named senior VP-general manager of the division. Mr. Hoff, 52, had been senior VP-marketing and sales at Time Warner Interactive, the recently created Time Warner subsidiary including Atari Games, Tengen and Warner New Media.

The first projects from Fox Interactive will be videogames based on Fox films.

The division plans an industry first by releasing a videogame simultaneously with the feature film on which it is based. "The Pagemaster," a live action/animation feature film starring Macaulay Culkin, will open in November and, if the new division remains on schedule, the videogame will go on sale at the same time.

Also in November, Fox Interactive plans to release a game based on "The Tick," a cult comic book-inspired TV series that will premiere on Fox Children's Network this fall.

Both games will be compatible with Sega of America's Genesis and Nintendo of America's Super NES machines.

Fox Interactive will rely on a sister home video division, FoxVideo, to market, advertise and distribute the games. Focus Media, Studio City, Calif., will handle media buying for both units, with creative assignments parceled out on a project basis.

While Fox is the last of the major studios to establish a new-media subsidiary, no studio to date has approached the sales success of independent companies developing new media.

"We may be the last to announce it, but we're not the last to get into it," said Al Ovadia, president of Twentieth Century Fox Licensing and Merchandising, who will oversee Mr. Hoff's unit. "We began the process last June, by putting the first products into development. It takes a year or more to get these things finished."

Fox has also licensed several independent companies, such as Acclaim Entertainment and Electronic Arts, to develop videogames based on its movies. Deals made prior to the creation of the new division will be unaffected by Fox Interactive.

"We would rather take better control of our assets and take a bigger piece of the ultimate product, especially as we move toward the CD-ROM market," Mr. Ovadia said.

While the new division's first products will be traditional, cartridge-based video-games, Mr. Ovadia sees a much larger market emerging with CD-ROMs. That format will support not only games but educational and informational programs.

Fox Interactive will work with Delphi Internet Services, HarperCollins and other News Corp. units to create CD-ROMs.

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