As expected. Lifetime Entertainment Services will become part of A&E Television Networks.
AETN has acquired the women's programmer, which will retain the name Lifetime Entertainment Services LLC as a subsidiary of AETN.
The deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed this year.
Abbe Raven, president and CEO of AETN, will serve as head of the combined company following the closing, while Andrea Wong, president and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services, will continue to head the Lifetime Networks and report to Raven following the closing. Bob DeBitetto, president and general manager, A&E Network and The Biography Channel, and Nancy Dubuc, president and general manager, History and History International, will both continue to report to Raven and run their respective networks.
The Walt Disney Co., Hearst Corp. and NBC have been partners in A&E since the network was created through the combination of ARTS and Entertainment Channels in 1984. Disney and Hearst own about 37.5% with NBC controlling about 25%. Lifetime is jointly owned by Disney and Hearst.
Under the agreement, there are mechanisms by which NBCU may elect or be required to exit AETN over a period of up to 15 years. In that event, Disney and Hearst could become 50-50 owners of AETN.
The new agreement will result in the consolidation of three of the nation's leading cable networks under a single management structure, while preserving the brand identities of each.
Additionally, the combined company will expand its global reach with access to some 250 million homes worldwide in more than 140 countries around the globe, as AETN's portfolio will now include: A&E Network, History, Lifetime Television, Lifetime Movie Network, Bio, History International, Lifetime Real Women, History en Español, Military History and Crime & Investigation Network.
Combining the resources, libraries and multiple platforms of 10 brands, including more than 20 Web sites, the new company believes it is well-positioned to create new opportunities for expansion and cross-promotion. The combination of these businesses is also expected to yield substantial cost efficiencies.
To that end, tt was unclear at presstime what the purchase would mean for Lifetime, relative to such disciplines as affiliate sales and marketing, as well as its location in Los Angeles. AETN is largely based in New York.
As early as May 2008, Disney CEO Bob Iger signaled to Multichannel Newsthat a change of ownership of the company might be in the cards. Iger is quoted as saying that it would make sense to put Lifetime and A&E together, "We leave some money on the table by not managing them as a whole, meaning one company."
Noted Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, and president of the Disney/ABC Television Group: "Consolidating these networks puts a powerful portfolio of distinct brands under the strategic vision of one of the industry's most innovative and effective leaders. The new company will be much greater than the sum of its parts, positioning these brands for a new level of success and performance."
Added Jeff Gaspin, chairman, NBCU Universal Television Entertainment: "AETN's success is the result of a long and very successful partnership involving NBCU, Disney/ABC and Hearst. This transaction represents the next stage of this partnership and the evolution of some terrific media brands."
"We are very proud of the success of these important cable brands and the content created with our partners, Disney/ABC and NBCU," said Scott Sassa, president, Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, in a statement."The new A&E Television Networks better positions each brand to continue to focus on the world-class storytelling and quality original programs they are known for."