Arts network Ovation will rejoin Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks lineups on Jan. 1, 2014, a year after being dropped. Network officials said a commitment to add more original shows persuaded the distributors to restore the channel to digital-basic lineups in all their systems.
The decision regains Ovation access to key markets including New York City and Los Angeles and likely adds more than 9 million customers to its reach. Ovation now has about 44 million subscribers, down nearly 7.7 million since January when it lost Time Warner Cable and Bright House carriage, according to Nielsen. BHN, which has about 2.5 million customers, buys much of its programming on a shared basis with TWC, the second-biggest U.S. cable operator.
“What Time Warner wants, what Ovation wants, is to provide the best services to our viewers and our customers,” Ovation chief operating officer Chad Gustein said. “They had a point of view and we, like any good supplier should, listened to our customer.”
Gutstein said the restoration should add more subscribers than were lost this past January, because Ovation had not always had digital basic distribution on TWC and was not carried in every TWC market before the drop. TWC and BHN representatives confirmed Ovation would be added in digital basic on or Jan. 1 but would not provide subscriber figures. It was widely reported, and not disputed, that TWC's drop alone cost Ovation 9 million homes.
Ovation added more original programs after TWC complained that it was “among the poorest performing networks” and that, despite calling itself an arts channel, much of its airtime was filled with repeated old movies, dated broadcast TV shows such as Antiques Roadshow and infomercials.
This year Ovation added more original shows, including an acquired dramatic series with Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe called A Young Doctors Notebook (pictured). Gutstein said the network raised its original arts-series profile with dance competition series A Chance to Dance in 2012 and said it's excited about upcoming (Nov. 12) series The Fashion Fund, produced in partnership with Condé Nast Entertainment.
Next year it’s promised to add 200 more hours of original programming dedicated to the arts, rising to 250 hours in 2015 and 300 hours per year after that. This year it also set up an in-house production unit called Ovation Studios.
Gutstein said of TWC officials: “To their immense credit, they did what they’ve always said they do, which is to continue to talk and keep an open mind. I think this outcome reflects their flexibility. They’re looking out for their customers and we’re looking out for ours.”
In a statement, Melinda Witmer, executive vice president and chief video and content officer at Time Warner Cable said: “We’re pleased to reach an agreement with Ovation that will deliver a much better value for our customers. Time Warner Cable has a responsibility to select unique, valuable and compelling options for our customers, and Ovation’s recommitment to its mission as an arts channel strengthens and differentiates their programming. We always look for opportunities to work with networks to enhance our diverse channel lineup.”
Gutstein would not discuss economics of the deal, other than to say, as before the drop, the network will be paid a carriage fee. The length of the deal was not disclosed.