Ovation rises for Miramax
Ovation TV, a small independent cable channel based in Santa Monica that is devoted to arts and culture, wants to stand up and bid for Miramax Films.
Miramax's movie library of sophisticated and Oscar-winning titles such as "Shakespeare in Love," "Chicago" and "The English Patient" would complement Ovation's mix of highbrow films, theater performances, documentaries, dance, music and opera, the channel's top executive said.
"We are aggressively pursuing the opportunity to bid on Miramax," Ovation Chief Executive Charles Segars said. "Miramax is one of the few strong, independent brands left in film today. It would be a seamless fit for us."
Segars said Ovation is well positioned to exploit Miramax's movies across its multiple platforms -- cable TV, video on demand, OvationTV.com and a high-definition channel that the company plans to launch in July. He said he recently alerted Walt Disney Co., which owns the library, about his company's interest in Miramax.
Ovation is one of the smaller cable channels -- available in 36 million homes, just a third of the country's TV households. Segars expects Ovation to be available in 40 million homes by the end of the year. Three and a half years ago, when the current group of owners, including Segars, bought the channel, it was available in 5 million homes.
"My concern is that if Miramax doesn't get multi-platform stewardship, it will quickly weaken the name brand and fade away," Segars said. He noted that Ovation could also offer genre titles like the "Scream" and "Scary Movie" films from Miramax's Dimension Films label on its video-on-demand service, which is available in 6 million homes.
But Ovation may be coming too late to the party for Miramax. Disney is poised to enter a second round of bidding with the current group of prospective buyers, including Lions Gate Entertainment, Tom Gores' investment firm Platinum Equity Partners and Weinstein Co.
Bob and Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. holds a small stake in Ovation, are scrambling to get financial backing to win back the maverick arthouse distributor they founded in 1979 and later sold to Disney.
"For now, we're doing separate bids," Segars said of the separate Ovation and Weinstein efforts.
Ovation probably would finance an acquisition of Miramax through "some of our current investors as well as outside equity partners," Segars said. Ovation's investors include Hubbard Media, Perry Capital, Arcadia Investment Partners and Corporate Partners II.
Segars was a key architect of the acquisition in 2006, and subsequent relaunch, of Ovation. He runs the company with Chairman Ken Solomon, who also heads the Tennis Channel.
Segars said he's not dissuaded by the fact that Disney has already narrowed the field of bidders. There is no reason Ovation should be turned away even at this late stage, he said. "It doesn't behoove Disney to keep out other interested parties."
Disney is hoping to close a deal for Miramax next month, but several suitors, among them Summit Entertainment and Qualia Capital, already have bowed out. They balked at the Burbank company's $700-million asking price, saying the cash flow from Miramax movie library isn't enough to justify paying that much of a premium.
-- Claudia Eller