Ovation, the pint-sized arts-and-culture network, has taken a decisive move toward its summer relaunch by naming veteran cable execs Kris Slava and Deborah Cuffaro to key posts.
Slava, who was VP of digital content and acquisitions for Bravo, becomes Ovation’s senior VP of programming and production. Cuffaro, who was VP of business development for National Cable Communications, takes the Ovation post of senior VP, advertising sales.
Three months ago, a consortium of investors, including the Weinstein Co. and the Hubbard Media Group, bought Ovation for $55 million with the goal of filling the void in arts programming abandoned more than a decade ago by cablers Bravo and A&E. Spearheading the investor group is Ken Solomon, chairman-CEO of the Tennis Channel.
The previous management of Ovation was spending only about $2.5 million a year on programming (one “Live From Lincoln Center” event on PBS costs more than that) and bringing in a paltry $200,000 in annual ad revenues. It has a negligible circulation of 5.3 million subscribers, compared with A&E’s 91.6 million.
Slava will have a lot more money to spend both on buying fresh programming and producing some original shows. And since there’s little demand for televised performance art, documentaries on cultural subjects or interviews with artists, Slava said his budget will go a long way, leaving room for commissioning new productions.
Better shows will draw more viewers, which in turn will get more cable systems to take Ovation as a digital service and make it easier for Cuffaro to lure more advertisers to the network.
Other execs hired with Slava and Cuffaro are Don Casciato, as VP of distribution; Michelle Zajic, director of programming; Rob Canter, director of creative services; and Jon Frankhauser, director of planning and control.
Chief operating officer Ron Garfield said he has one more top executive slot to fill, head of marketing, which should happen in the next 90 days.
The other investors in Ovation are Arcadia Investment Partners, Corporate Partners II and Perry Capital.