Arts channel to nearly triple reach
In a deal that will dramatically boost the exposure of Ovation, the niche arts net has struck a deal with Liberty Media’s DirecTV that will provide it with a national footprint.A group of investors including Hubbard Media, Corporate Partners II, Perry Capital, Arcadia Investment Partners and the Weinstein Co. bought the net last year. John Malone’s Liberty recently took over a significant minority stake — about 38% — in DirecTV as part of a stock trade with News Corp. The arts network has had little exposure. It reaches only about 5.3 million homes, led by deals in scattered markets with Time Warner Cable, and its cash flow is thought to be only in the mid-low six figures, according to recent Kagan Research estimates. But with the new pact, net will rest on DirecTV’s Total Choice Plus tier, which includes the Golf Channel and PBS Kids and costs $5 more per month than the standard package. Total Choice Plus reaches many of the satcaster’s roughly 16 million homes. Execs were circumspect about whether any fees exchanged hands to put the net on DirecTV, as can happen when a niche web lands a major carriage deal. Operators currently pay Ovation a minuscule 7¢ per subscriber. Ovation focuses on the arts coverage that A&E and other mainstream nets abandoned in the 1990s, with programming that includes opera and theater. Chief operating officer Ron Garfield said that while Ovation will always remain an arts net, a revamp in the spring will reflect its broader reach. “This is the biggest announcement in the history of the channel,” Garfield said. “We’re developing lot of different ideas in anticipation of this.” Announcement was made by Ovation CEO Charles Segars, Ovation chairman Ken Solomon and DirecTV exec veep of programming Dan Fawcett. As part of the revamp, net will also take on the name Ovation TV, a tweak from the current name, Ovation — the Arts Network. Deal means that Ovation will easily surpass its initial promise that the net will double its reach in 2007. Ovation recently tapped Rainbow vet Deborah Cuffaro as its new head of ad sales ahead of both bigger carriage deals and its second-quarter relaunch.