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Ovation TV Revamp Takes a Localized Tack

4/27/2007 8:00 PM Eastern

Ovation TV will relaunch in June with a new on-air look and a programming strategy aimed at creating partnerships with local arts organizations that will provide network affiliates with bonus video-on-demand content.

The brand refresh is timed to coincide with the nine-year-old channel's previously announced June 20 launch on DirecTV.

With that direct-broadcast satellite deal, Ovation TV's reach is expected to more than triple from its current base of 5.4 million cable subscribers. The channel is not providing specific distribution numbers for the DirecTV deal, which will position Ovation TV on the satellite leader's Total Choice Plus tier.

The direct-broadcast satellite debut coincides with the shift of Ovation TV's programming strategy away from fine-art centered programming to a broader palette that will devote each day's schedule to a specific genre such as performances, visual arts or film.

Weekends will be home to “stunts and specials,” according to network chief operating officer Ron Garfield.

The modifications were prompted by a change in ownership last August: Ovation TV is now controlled by a group of private investors including Arcadia Investment Partners, the Hubbard Media Group, Perry Capital and The Weinstein Co.

'NOT A NICHE'

The local arts partnerships, meanwhile, will help key a deeper push onto cable systems, Garfield noted.

Initially, the channel is focusing on creating these relationships in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, where Ovation TV is carried by systems owned by Time Warner Cable and Comcast.

Garfield, citing recent survey research, said that in 2005, between 50 and 55 million people in this country went to live sporting events, a total that was dwarfed by the 260 million that attended art-related events, ranging from festivals to recitals to plays and other live performances.

“This is not a niche category. Every city and town attracts people to something [arts-related],” he said.

Ovation TV's first two local arts partners: the Harlem School of the Arts, a 43-year-old institution providing instruction for youth in dance, music, theater and the visual arts in New York; and P.S. Arts, a nonprofit organization devoted to returning arts education to public schools in Southern California.

“We'll drive awareness of the institutes. We've produced public-service announcements for them we'll be placing with affiliates,” Garfield said.

In turn, these and other partners own programming that can not only be culled for presentation on Ovation TV's broadband portal, but can be edited for use on affiliates' video-on-demand platforms.

“What will really set the channel apart is localism. … Art is different in New York City than it is in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the [target] marketplace, we're building 360-degree partnerships,” Garfield.

Ovation TV already has master distribution agreements with Time Warner and Comcast, among other operators, and Garfield believes that the channel will widen its distribution base under the localism strategy due to its “unique value proposition.”

UPDATED LOOK

More arts partners will be named soon and the initiative will be expanded to more markets as interest warrants, Garfield said.

When the channel launches on DirecTV, the on-air look will change.

The channel's in-house design team worked with an outside agency to create on-air elements with vibrant color and with the contemporary look and feel of a magazine, Garfield said.

As for the content, Ovation TV executives are going through the partners' libraries and the channel's own archives with a fine-tooth comb, gleaning the best content to fit the revised programming scheme.

Asked about high-definition plans, Garfield said new productions and series will be shot in the enhanced format “so we have it.”

He's not sure how the channel will use it at this juncture, though.

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