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Rainbow Media Promotes From Within

12/12/2004 7:00 PM Eastern

Rainbow Media Holdings, whose spinoff had been delayed indefinitely, has turned in-house to fill several top management vacancies, promoting three of its veteran executives.

Ed Carroll, formerly executive vice president and general manager of Independent Film Channel, was named president of Rainbow’s Entertainment Services, responsible for AMC, IFC and WE: Women’s Entertainment. He replaces Kathleen Dore, who exited Rainbow in October to become president of television and radio at CanWest MediaWorks in Toronto.

Rainbow also named Kim Martin — most recently executive vice president of distribution and affiliate marketing for AMC, Fuse, IFC, WE, Mag Rack and Sportskool — as executive vice president and general manager of WE.

And Gregg Hill — formerly executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing for AMC, IFC, WE and Mag Rack — was promoted and named president of distribution, overseeing those same services.

The promotions come as no surprise. In fact, Martin has been serving as general manager of WE for roughly two months — Multichannel News reported it on Oct. 11 — although the company hadn’t officially announced her promotion.

MOST HOLES FILLED

This latest batch of promotions follow five hires and promotions that Rainbow made in October, and these fill most of the holes left after a series of executive exits at the programming company, a unit of Cablevision Systems Corp.

“It’s a new energized group: Some new people, some people from inside, but we’re now complete,” Rainbow Media CEO Joshua Sapan said. “We have just a fabulous group. We will focus on original programming singularly as a way to build audience and define brands.

“We will focus on new technologies, as we have done — Mag Rack and Sportskool — but also through our existing brands.”

Carroll and Hill report to Sapan, and Martin reports to Carroll.

Rainbow still needs to replace Carroll as IFC general manager. But it plans to name a new GM shortly, sources said.

At least for the near-term, Carroll will essentially act as general manager for AMC.

The GM slots at AMC and WE had been vacant because their chiefs, Noreen O’Loughlin and Martin von Ruden, were among 14 Cablevision executives let go roughly a year and a half ago, in the wake of a probe into accounting irregularities at the company. The president of AMC Networks, Kate McEnroe, was also fired.

The new promotions come roughly one week after Cablevision disclosed that its spinoff of Rainbow Media Entertainment — which includes IFC, AMC and WE, as well as the Voom-branded HDTV satellite service — has been delayed, without a new date. The spinoff had been slated for the fourth quarter, but then Cablevision reported that it would not happen this year.

KUDOS FOR CARROLL

Sapan credited Carroll, who joined Rainbow in 1987 as a publicist, for the successful launch of IFC, and for later adding original documentary and series programming to the lineup.

Carroll was also general manager of Bravo, where he helped develop marquee shows such as Inside the Actor’s Studio and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. That channel has since been sold to NBC Universal.

Martin’s appointment is somewhat unusual in that cable-network general managers usually come from the programming side of the business, not affiliate sales. But Rainbow has a history of elevating affiliate-sales officials, including Dore and McEnroe, to GM slots.

“We’ve had a really good experience with people who come up from the sales and distribution side taking over leadership positions,” said Sapan, who lauded Martin for her role in helping to transform Romance Classics into the 56 million-home WE. “She has a depth of understanding about the category that comes not only from her own gender and genetics, but from being a keen observer of what’s going on in popular culture. And as we move WE to its next stage, I think she’s the perfect person to go do that.”

Martin, who worked at Discovery Networks U.S. before joining Rainbow, said she has a special insight because of her affiliate-sales background.

“I am fortunate because I do come from the distribution side and I have had a wonderful opportunity to hear from cable operators, from distributors, what they’d like to see from programmers, particularly from WE,” Martin said. “So I come to this job with the full knowledge of what their expectations are. … I have the ability to tap in and say, 'What do you think about this? These are a couple of shows we are thinking [about].’ ”

BULKING UP AT WE

With a team in place, Rainbow is focusing on original programming and getting more carriage for its VOD offerings, particularly IFC Uncensored and IFC Films On Demand.

Next year’s top priority for WE is to create a strong slate of original shows and a VOD component, Martin said.

The network has renewed some existing shows, and is revamping others, including Bridezilla. With a retooling, Martin and Carroll believe that Bridezilla could be a breakout hit.

WE is also looking at 50 different proposals for new shows next year, according to Martin.

“Last year, we had a half-dozen original series on the air,” Carroll said. “That number will increase dramatically. It may double by the time the year is over.”

The amount of original programming on AMC, whose mandate is “to own the real estate of movies on basic,” will also increase, according to Carroll. AMC could have as many as a half-dozen new original shows next year related to “movie culture,” like its current The Movie Club, Carroll said.

IFC also will debut its first original scripted series, two of them, next year, according to Carroll.

On the on-demand front, Rainbow will start marketing IFC Uncensored to MSOs other than Cablevision.

“We will view it much more of as a flanker brand to the network in ’05,” Carroll said. “It was really handled as its own sort of startup test, and we’re treating it now as full-fledged microbrand.”