Consolidation Prompts Affiliate-Sales Cuts

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Citing industry consolidation, three programmers — Rainbow Media Holdings Inc., Showtime Networks Inc. and A&E Television Networks — cut back on their affiliate-sales operations, officials confirmed last week.

Rainbow has completed restructuring the four sales forces once employed for its portfolio of networks, paring them down to two. Rainbow used to have separate sales staffs dedicated to American Movie Classics and WE: Women's Entertainment; Bravo and Independent Film Channel; and Muchmusic USA and the Mag Rack video-on-demand service.

Rainbow has trimmed those sales forces down to two affiliate teams, a company spokesman confirmed. Rainbow reportedly was looking to streamline its affiliate-sales functions — in keeping with the new world of cable, in which MSO consolidation is rampant — and provide better support for its developing businesses, Muchmusic and Mag Rack.

The Rainbow spokesman confirmed that some affiliate-sales people were let go under the changes, but declined to say how many. But one source said that Rainbow let go six to eight Muchmusic affiliate sales people, with the team for AMC and WE now handling that music service. Mag Rack is now being handled by the affiliate sales force for Bravo and IFC.

CHICAGO CLOSURE

Showtime Networks Inc. is in the process of closing its Chicago affiliate sales office, a spokeswoman for the premium service said.

"Due to consolidation in the cable industry, we are reorganizing our field sales staff to better respond to our customers' needs," the Showtime spokeswoman said.

She declined comment on whether staff members from the Chicago office were being let go.

And A&E Networks has shuttered its Denver affiliate-sales office, an A&E spokesman said last week. Some A&E salespeople were let go as a result, but the spokesman wouldn't say how many.

Some programmers had kept affiliate-sales offices in Denver because for years, it had been cable's unofficial capital. Many MSOs, such as AT&T Broadband and the former Jones Intercable, were headquartered there.

But with MSO consolidation — particularly the looming AT&T Comcast Corp. merger, which shifts power at that operator to Philadelphia — there is no need for a presence in the Mile High City anymore.

In fact, a source said some programmers are considering opening field offices in Philadelphia, where Comcast is based.

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