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CBS Takes Control of Pop TV Cabler, Buys Out Lionsgate’s 50% Stake

CBS has taken full ownership of the Pop TV cable channel after buying out the 50% stake held by Lionsgate.

CBS said it aims to better integrate Pop with the rest of CBS Corp. Pop will continue to field “idiosyncratic, comedy-leaning original programming” and it may add reruns of vintage and contemporary CBS shows, according to a memo from CBS Corp. chief content officer David Nevins.

The pricetag for the deal was not disclosed. CBS bought 50% of what was then the TV Guide Network for $100 million in 2013. Given the turbulence in the pay TV marketplace, it is unlikely CBS paid as much to acquire the rest of the channel.

Pop in recent years has become known for the original comedy “Schitt’s Creek,” which has become a buzzy sleeper success story and a critical darling. Pop president Brad Schwartz is set to continue at the helm of the company, which will be integrated into CBS’ cable network business segment that houses Showtime, Smithsonian Channel and CBS Sports Network. Schwartz will report to Nevins, after reporting to a board composed of CBS and Lionsgate executives.

“In short order, Pop has made a big impression as a general entertainment cable network that punches well above its weight,” Nevins wrote in a memo to CBS staffers Tuesday. “Under the terrific leadership of Brad Schwartz, this young network has established a distinct brand with inventive programming and a scrappy, competitive drive that has made them one of only three ad-supported cable networks in the entire industry to grow its total audience for six consecutive years.”

News of CBS’ purchase was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

CBS bought the 50% stake in TV Guide Network from JP Morgan’s One Capital Partners. Lionsgate bought the entirety of the TV Guide cabler and its digital operations for $255 million from then-TV Guide parent Macrovision in 2009. Lionsgate sold the half interest to JP Morgan the same year for about $120 million.

For Lionsgate, the sale of Pop comes as the company looks to sell off non-core assets and streamline its operational focus to film and TV production and the Starz pay-TV channel, which is in the midst of an international expansion push. Two years ago, Lionsgate sold its 31% share in the Epix pay-TV channel to MGM for about $300 million.

“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished together with our partners at CBS in building Pop into a nationally distribu ted platform with exciting programming like the acclaimed series ‘Schitt’s Creek,’ ” a Lionsgate spokesman said. “Pop is a great fit for CBS’ portfolio of businesses, and they are the ideal company to take Pop to the next level of performance under the continued leadership of Pop President Brad Schwartz. Lionsgate Television will continue to supply its original content, like the upcoming series ‘Florida Girls,’ to the platform.”

Here is Nevins’ memo in full:

Good afternoon, everyone. I have some exciting news today to share about Pop TV, which, as you know, has been a very successful joint venture between CBS and Lionsgate. Going forward, Pop will be 100 percent owned by CBS, and we are very excited about its next chapter as a fully integrated part of our global premium content company.

In short order, Pop has made a big impression as a general entertainment cable network that punches well above its weight. Under the terrific leadership of Brad Schwartz, this young network has established a distinct brand with inventive programming and a scrappy, competitive drive that has made them one of only three ad-supported cable networks in the entire industry to grow its total audience for six consecutive years.

In the process, they have also birthed a signature series with the critically acclaimed SCHITT’S CREEK, a show that was on 30 year-end best lists in 2018 and continues to grow in ratings every year. Pop has continued their programming momentum with the well-reviewed FLACK starring Anna Paquin, currently in its first season, and the upcoming FLORIDA GIRLS.

Going forward, Pop will continue on its path of developing idiosyncratic, comedy-leaning original programming for the network. We also see Pop as another important outlet for CBS-produced content, both original series and secondary runs of off-network and library programming.

With ownership under one roof, we also hope to explore more opportunities where Pop can be part of content and marketing initiatives across all CBS-owned platforms. By way of example, Pop has collaborated successfully with the CBS Television Network for several years on the late night companion series BIG BROTHER AFTER DARK and with other cross-platform ideas.

Pop will be integrated into the Company as part of the CBS Cable Network Segment with Brad reporting to me.

We believe that by bringing Pop closer to the CBS and Showtime creative and business operations, we can help unlock value and drive growth at Pop TV.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge Jon Feltheimer and our colleagues at Lionsgate, who have been terrific partners in our joint venture to launch and grow Pop. We thank them for everything they’ve done to support Pop along the way and bring us to this point.

David

(Pictured: “Schitt’s Creek”)

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