TV Guide Channel Becomes The Land of Two Rivers

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There may be an “e” in “Rivers,” but there's no longer a Rivers in E!.

Last week, Joan Rivers and her daughter, Melissa, who together created a franchise out of red carpet fashion commentary at E! Entertainment Television, jumped to the TV Guide Channel. They join that service Aug. 1.

According to sources, the mother-daughter team has committed to the listings channel for three years with a contract that will earn the pair between $6 and $8 million.

Along with red-carpet coverage for the Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.-owned network, the Rivers duo also will develop other programming.

E! loses the most familiar faces of its pre- and post-award show programming that network executives have called “our equivalent to the Super Bowl” and built into a major affiliate promotional opportunities.

Their E! contract expired in December and the parties negotiated. But E! executive vice president Mark Sonnenberg said the network and the duo “decided to amicably part ways.”

That came before the executive shakeup at E!, which resulted in broadcast veteran Ted Harbert succeeding Mindy Herman as CEO.

Joan Rivers's publicist, Richard Grant, said she was on holiday in London and couldn't comment personally on her new programming home. He said Rivers “certainly has no hard feelings” against anyone at E!. TV Guide “just made an offer they couldn't resist.”

A&E Network had also approached the pair about a deal, he said.

Ian Aaron, president of the TV Guide Group, has shorn up distribution with deals with EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network and DirecTV Inc. that pushed the network's subscriber base beyond 80 million homes. Aaron said the efforts show a commitment to “move the needle toward entertainment” and beyond the “listings' label.

TV Guide Channel has already dabbled in ancillary awards show programming. A special around the Video Music Awards on MTV quadrupled the channel's “length of tune,” Aaron said, to an average of 19 minutes.

“This is not our only get,” Aaron said. “This was about creating some anchors.” He would not divulge any other moves.

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