Studio closes purchase from Macrovision

Lionsgate has been handed the keys and the deed to cabler TV Guide Network and the TV Guide Online biz after closing its $255 million purchase from Macrovision.

Lionsgate pounced on the cabler in December, cutting a stealth deal with Macrovision even after the latter had announced an agreement to sell TV Guide Network to another buyer, media investor Allen Shapiro (Daily Variety, Jan. 6). Shapiro had hinted that he might make another run at the asset, but in the end Macrovision execs said Lionsgate’s cash offer was more attractive for shareholders and more certain to close in a timely manner.

Although TV Guide Network is widely distribbed in 83 million cable homes, it still fetched a bargain-basement price in a down market overall for media sales. The cabler drew little interest from major media congloms because of the timing of the sale and some inherent weaknesses in the channel’s agreements with cable operators.

Macrovision, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based tech company, bought TV Guide parent Gemstar-TV Guide last year in order to get a hold of its TV Guide-branded interactive program guide and other proprietary technologies the company controls.

From the start, Macrovision intended to unload the venerable TV Guide magazine, which it sold to an equity group for all of $1 and assumption of debt, and the cable and online biz (Daily Variety, Oct. 17). Last month, Macrovision took a writedown of $208 million on its fourth quarter earnings based on the decrease in value of the TV Guide Network and online operations and the modest coin they fetched in the sale.

As part of the purchase agreement, Lionsgate has extended the contract of TV Guide Network prexy Ryan O’Hara. Lionsgate brass has said the cabler was a natural fit with its growing film, TV and homevid library, and will be an asset in helping to tubthump the company’s theatrical releases.

And bringing TV Guide Network into the fold adds heft to Lionsgate’s profile in the domestic TV biz. The mini-major also is a partner with Comcast Corp. in the on-demand Fearnet horror channel and with Viacom and MGM in the nascent premium cabler Epix.

The TV Guide Online biz encompasses TVGuide.com and the aficionado websites JumptheShark.com, FansofRealityTV.com, TVShowsonDVD.com and TV-Now.com.

Separately, on Monday, the Epix partners named former MTV Networks exec Courtney Menzel as senior veep of content distribution, to help secure carriage agreements for the service with cable, satellite and telco operations. The Epix partners have said they expect to launch the channel by year’s end, but so far they have yet to announce any carriage deals.

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