Rainbows IFC Directs an IFILM Deal

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Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. is taking a 5 percent stake in IFILM Corp., an online portal for film aficionados, which will develop a TV series for the programming company's The Independent Film Channel as part of the new alliance.

The long-term agreement calls for Rainbow's IFC and IFILM to exchange content and to cross-promote on their Web, television and print properties, officials said last week.

Rainbow will get an equity stake of 5 percent in IFILM with an option to acquire another 2 percent, according to officials, in exchange for providing IFILM with on-air promotional time of an unspecified value over several years.

As part of the deal, IFC will pay IFILM to develop and produce 26 half-hour episodes per year of a hosted TV-magazine show for IFC that will focus on the world of independent film.

The series, which will debut in the spring of 2001, will originate from IFILM's headquarters in Hollywood.

IFC now has 14 million subscribers, and its strategic alliance with IFILM will allow film fans who don't have the cable channel to access some of its content, IFC president Kathleen Dore said.

"What we have is the leading TV brand in the country on independent film and the leading online brand in the category," she said. "Our content is closely aligned. We found that we have very similar points of view. We have the same desire to broaden the audience for independent film."

The IFC-IFILM pact is similar to an agreement Rainbow-a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp. that is partly owned by NBC-reached late last year involving Salon.com and Bravo.

In that pact, Rainbow acquired a 10 percent stake in Salon.com in exchange for giving the site cross-promotional time on Bravo. And Salon.com is developing a TV series for Bravo.

IFILM-which contains links to more than 10,000 films and tens of thousands of film Web sites-will get placement on the "IFC box scores," or billboards, which precede the movies aired on the network, Dore said.

In turn, IFC will get its own area on IFILM's Web site. IFILM will also promote IFC's Web site and try to drive subscribers to the network's new magazine, ifcRANT.

IFILM CEO and cofounder Kevin Wendle has plenty of experience tying Web sites to cable networks. Wendle, who helped to launch the Fox broadcast network, was a founding partner of CNET Inc. and one of the founders of E! Entertainment Television's E! Online.

He said he and Rainbow president Josh Sapan have talked about doing business together for years.

"It makes sense for any company to extend their brand to new platforms," Wendle said. "IFC is the best-known brand in the independent-film category, and this opportunity fit like a glove. They'll be promoting IFILM on IFC every day."