Elton And Elvis Highlight Sundance Channel’s Program Slate

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New York – Sundance Channel Wednesday unveiled a development and acquisition slate that includes a new series from Elton John and Elvis Costello.

The two musical artists are teaming up on a show called Spectacle: Elvis Costello With…, which will air later this year not only on Sundance Channelin the United States but also in the United Kingdom and Canada.

Costello will essentially host the 13-episode talk-music series, which John is executive producing.

Sundance Channel made a series of announcements during a press breakfast in Manhattan, saying it has seven series in development for 2009 and that it had acquired 10 series, including six with an eco-focus that will be added to The Green, the channel’s programming devoted to the environment.

The development slate list includes a multi-part show with Keith Johnson, buyer for the popular clothing and housewares retail chain Anthropologie; Eco-Trip: The RealCost of Living,” a series exploring the eco-story behind common everyday products hosted by David DeRothschild, founder of Adventure Ecology, according to Laura Michalchyshyn, Sundance’s executive vice president and general manager, programming and creative affairs.

She told reporters that Sundance’s program lineup is now 70% feature films and documentaries, 25% series and 5% shorts.

Sundance’s acquisitions for the new season include the U.S. television premiere of the British import The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle, starring Jennifer Saunders and Miranda Richardson; new seasons of Ladette to Lady and Shameless; and a documentary series about the world’s largest Chinese restaurant, coinciding with the Olympics in Beijing.

The network is also creating original content for the Web, with plans to launch the original Web series The Good Fight April 22, Earth Day. The webisodes will explore issues relating to environmental justice, such as the rebuilding of Greensburg, Kan., as a green town. The episodes and podcasts will also be available on Sundance’s branded sections of Verizon’s V CAST, YouTube, Hulu and the iTunes store.

Sundance Channel will also be premiering Isabella Rossellini’s eight-part short film series about the sex life of insects, Green Porno, which will debut on its Web site and Helio’s mobile service May 5. Green Porno will be available on Sundance video on demand in June, and air on the linear channel in July.

The network has changed its distribution strategy to seek carriage on widely distributed digital-basic rather than movie-only tiers, according to Sundance Channel president Larry Aidem. He said that the network will announce a major carriage deal later this month—with a Top 4 distributor—that will put it on digital basic across the board with that company.

Sundance will be doing smaller upfront gatherings for ad agencies in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York that Robert Redford, the network’s co-founder and part-owner, will be attending, according to Aidem.

During the Wednesday presentation, Sundance Channel also released the results of a viewer engagement study that it commissioned. Conducted online with 1,500 respondents, the survey found that Sundance viewers have a higher level of interest in sponsors they see on the channel than competing networks and are more likely to take action based on them.

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