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The Ovation channel is ready for its close-up

August 24, 2010 |  9:00 am

It’s not easy being a little guy in a land of media giants, lacking leverage and deep pockets. But the Santa Monica-based Ovation cable channel has notched impressive gains and is attempting to prove that an arts channel not only can survive, but also thrive, on TV.

Available in only 5 million homes in 2007, the channel now can be seen in about 42 million homes, or nearly half of all cable and satellite households in the country. Ovation also has bolstered its roster of advertisers — including such marquee companies as Chase Bank, Wal-Mart, Acura and Subaru — and this year the channel swung into the black. Segars

Later this year, the channel will reach another milestone when it is included in the ratings surveys produced by  Nielsen Co.

"We are here to build a profitable arts channel. It can be done,” said Charles Segars, a longtime television programmer who is chief executive of Ovation. “The arts have never failed in America, and a whole new generation of artists is formed every day.”

Most cable channels long ago consolidated into the hands of the major players. Only a few independents remain, including the Hallmark Channel, Current TV, the Tennis Channel, the Gospel Music Channel, the Africa Channel and ReelzChannel, owned by Hubbard Media Group, a family firm that was an early investor in DirecTV and is the controlling shareholder of Ovation.

The other owners of Ovation are Segars, Ken Solomon (who also is chief executive of the Tennis Channel), Arcadia Investment Partners, Corporate Partners II, Perry Capital and the Weinstein Co. The group bought the channel from other investors in 2006 for about $55 million.

Segars, who wrote the original story for "National Treasure," that went on to become a major motion picture for Walt Disney Co., previously worked at CBS, DreamWorks Television and, along with Solomon, helped create the Fine Living network.

This time, he and Solomon have their work cut out.

“The track record of true independents has not been very good,” Solomon said.  “There are carcasses lining the side of the road to success. We know that distributors — and advertisers — have to see the value of our programming.”

For more on how Ovation is starting to generate some applause, please see our story in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times.

-- Meg James

Photo of Ovation's Charles Segars  Credit: Christina House For The Times