Alliance expands its stake in Showcase TV

Alliance Communications Corp. has raised its stake in the Showcase Television specialty channel and plans to eventually acquire total ownership of the niche broadcaster.

The Toronto-based company, Canada’s largest film and television producer and distributor, said Monday that its move to boost its interest in the 2-year-old service was prompted by its successful bid last year for a second specialty channel, the History and Entertainment Network, which is expected to launch in September.

Alliance chairman Robert Lantos said that by consolidating its holdings in Showcase, the company can “maximize the operating economies of two sister broadcast services.”

Captive audience

Showcase is among the most successful of six Canadian specialty channels launched Jan. 1, 1995. Together, the new channels have captured about 4% of the national audience.

Alliance said it has acquired an additional 20% of Showcase, bringing its equity stake to 75%. Among the selling shareholders was Les Productions La Fete, controlled by Montreal filmmaker Rock Demers, which traded its 18% interest for a combination of cash and Alliance stock.

The balance of Showcase is owned by independent producers and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Observers don’t expect Alliance to encounter much opposition in buying out the remaining minority shareholders.

Taking an interest

In a separate transaction, Alliance acquired a 20% interest in La Fete, which claims an international reputation as a producer of children’s programming.

George Burger, Alliance executive vice president, told Daily Variety that the company will participate with La Fete in the international exploitation of its major title, “Les Contes Pour Tous,” and has penned deals for motion picture and television projects.

No financial terms were disclosed for either transaction.

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