Entertainment Industry

Category: Ovation

Ovation channel now available in 50 million homes

Charles Segars is Ovation's CEO
Ovation, the independently owned cable television channel that showcases art and artists, has etched a major milestone: It now is available in more than 50 million homes.

The Santa Monica-based cable channel announced this week that it secured a distribution deal with AT&T's U-verse subscription television service, putting the channel in more than half of the nation's households that subscribe to pay-TV. Ovation has increased its carriage by about 20% during the last year -- an achievement for a small independent that lacks the leverage of a major media company like News Corp., NBCUniversal or Walt Disney Co.

“When we acquired Ovation five years ago, it was in less than 5 million homes,” Charles Segars, chief executive of Ovation, said in a statement. “Our 10-fold growth proves that distributors and viewers agree with what we have been saying all along: Programming about art, artists and artistic expression rocks.”

The channel's expansion bodes well for the network because it demonstrates that cable, satellite and telephone companies are interested in carrying some highbrow programming at a time when distributors are under pressure to shed channels. Consumers have grown increasingly wary of rising cable bills. 

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-- Meg James

Photo: Ovation Chief Executive Charles Segars in 2010 at the channel's Santa Monica headquarters. Credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times

A tale of two networks and one chairman

The Tennis Channel is no fan of Comcast Corp. But the Ovation network likes Comcast. Interestingly, both cable channels have the same chairman -- Ken Solomon.

SOLOMON No, Solomon doesn't have a split personality. He just happens to be chairman of two cable channels that seem to have very different perceptions of the nation's biggest cable operator. While Tennis Channel is at war with the cable giant and complained to the Federal Communications Commission that Comcast favors its own channels over those from outside suppliers, Ovation has nothing but nice things to say about the company.

In a letter to Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and ranking Republican member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), the chief executive of Ovation said Comcast has been key to the arts network's growth. "Comcast has been an outstanding distributor of our unique programming," Charles Segars wrote, adding the cable behemoth has "a strong record of launching viable, independent channels" and has been a "fair partner."

That's quite the contrast from what Tennis Channel said about Comcast earlier this year. In a filing at the FCC, Comcast was accused by Tennis Channel of causing "specific and concrete harm to its ability to compete for viewers, advertisers and the rights to cablecast tennis events."

Comcast has countered that the Tennis Channel doesn't like its current distribution deal and is trying to negotiate a new one before the old one expires. Its gripe to the FCC are "without merit" and need to be "denied and dismissed."

In fairness to Solomon, he is non-executive chairman of Ovation while he is executive chairman of Tennis Channel. Still, hope he has enough hooks in his closet for all his various hats.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Ken Solomon. Credit: Fred Mullane 


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