Uni music net in movement to Ovation TV

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Ovation TV, the arts-themed network that relaunched last year with a focus on making the arts more accessible to viewers, has acquired Universal Music Group's 24-hour music network International Music Feed.

The purchase of IMF gives Ovation TV access to the channel's resources, including its music programming, and also boosts its distribution by 60% to 25 million homes -- meaning Ovation has grown its subscriber base by about 20 million homes in the past year.

IMF, which launched in 2005, features a schedule of all-music programming such as live concerts, in-depth artist interviews and music videos. Under the purchase agreement, IMF will cease operation of its programming on Dish Network on Wednesday and be replaced by Ovation's programming (Channel 157). IMF will cease its programming on other distributors by the end of the first quarter.

Combining IMF's subscriber base with Ovation TV's boosts the network's national distribution by 8 million homes, with the gain coming mostly from IMF's Dish subscribers. Ovation already was carried on DirecTV (Channel 274) and cable systems in certain markets nationwide.

Ovation TV, which touts itself as the only network devoted to the arts and arts-related programming, originally launched in 1997 with a somewhat narrow focus on classical and fine arts. In June, the channel relaunched with a broader definition of arts programming. Network CEO Charles Segars said the IMF acquisition fits into that strategy.

"One of the categories we wanted to broaden was music; about a year ago, we started looking for some sort of acquisition to beef up our original programming and the music programming category," he said. "This is a great partnership with UMG, which is the world's largest holder of jazz, classical and world music programming."

Segars also noted the independent network's significant growth during the past year.

"We've added 20 million homes -- that's unprecedented growth," he said, adding that Ovation TV is negotiating with IMF's other carriers -- AT&T's U-verse and WideOpenWest. IMF also has a carriage deal with Verizon's FiOS TV, which already carries Ovation TV.

Ovation TV executives are now developing plans for integrating IMF's programming into the schedule.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, though Segars said the network paid a combination of cash and stock. UMG will be a minority shareholder in Ovation TV, which was acquired in 2006 by Hubbard Media Group and a group of other private investors including Arcadia Investment Partners, Corporate Partners II, Perry Capital and the Weinstein Co.
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