Etienne de Villiers, former president and managing director of Walt Disney International for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, has joined burgeoning VoD company Video Networks as a non-executive director.

The move comes as the operation is expanding film activities with recent deals with US studios including Buena Vista International Television and Columbia TriStar International Television. Video Networks also has an alliance with UK distributor Downtown Pictures for independent films.

The VoD operation plans a London roll-out this year and a national roll-out in 2001 after raising more than £102m in equity from investment vehicle Digital Explosion. The company, which has raised £170m in private equity since launching, may also float.

De Villiers' appointment coincides with that of Christopher Lewinton, chairman of specialised engineering business TI Group, also as a non-executive director.

De Villiers was also president of Walt Disney Television International from 1994 to 1998, and managing director of The Walt Disney Company Limited in the UK from 1988. During his tenure at Walt Disney, he increased international production and distribution activities more than 20-fold and launched Disney Channels in twelve major markets.

"We are delighted to have the board strengthened by two such eminent businessmen," said lan lrvine, chairman of Video Networks. "They are joining Videonet at an exciting time, when we are expanding our Homechoice service throughout London and have successfully raised further equity financing. Their valuable experience will be of great benefit to the board as we expand in this very exciting industry."