[WHAT’S ON KOREAN TV]Where did the movies go? Here's answer

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[WHAT’S ON KOREAN TV]Where did the movies go? Here's answer

"Unbreakable" was the right movie to play at midnight on Nov. 24, decided executives at On Media. The film looked like the typical fare shown on On Media's HBO, but it wasn't. From that night on, HBO in Korea was no more.

On Media, a budding cable mini-empire that operates Tooniverse, MTV Korea, a baduk (Korean for "go") channel and several movie channels, just recently relaunched HBO under the name Catch On.

Starring Bruce Willis and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, "Unbreakable" was selected not for its content, but for its title. On Media signed a contract with HBO in October 2000, but that deal came to its natural end last month. On Media did not extend the contract and decided to break off and go solo with a new name.

Choi In-hee, public relations officer at On Media, said that it was natural for her company to start a new channel under a new name. Before the deal with HBO, On Media in 1999 formed the nation's first pay-per-view channel under the name Catch One, a decidedly familiar name.

Catch On, however, sounds more profound than Catch One. Ms. Choi explained that the company kept "Catch" from the old brand name, but "on" has a double-meaning -- on from "on air" and from "On Media." Combined, the two words stand for the slogan, "If you want to have a real taste of broadcasting, you should catch it," according to On Media.

The On Media empire evolved almost by accident. It acquired a local cable cartoon channel in 1995, which was renamed Tooniverse in 1997. When the all-cartoon channel shot to the top of the cable ratings, Orion Group found itself flush. It soon bought a movie network and renamed it OCN. From there, home shopping and the other channels followed.

Even though the new Catch On is its own entity, the content will still be mostly the same, Ms. Choi said. Programs exclusive to HBO, such as the popular comedy "Sex and the City" will remain on the same channel. "Though the programs are produced by HBO, they have other distributors, from whom we managed to secure the copyright," Ms. Choi said.

HBO is said to be looking for another business partner in Korea and a new movie channel from MBC-TV, a major network, is allegedly one of the candidates. Nothing, however, has emerged yet.

To celebrate the new brand name, new segments appear on the channel. Season five of "Sex and the City," season two of "West Wing" and "Six Feet Under" are going to be played in mini-marathons on Catch On. After midnight, OCN and Catch On Plus, which used to be HBO Plus, play selected soft pornography films. Catch On Plus calls its late-night lineup "Erotic Island." These programs are among the most popular for On Media, reaching about a 1-percent rating of the audience.

"The parting is to the benefit of both sides, On Media and HBO," Ms. Choi said.

by Chun Su-jin

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