An artful deal for Ovation

DirecTV carriage triples output

Ovation TV, which bills itself as the only network devoted to art and art-related programming, has inked a carriage deal with DirecTV that will significantly boost the channel's distribution.

The network, which is planning a relaunch late in the second quarter, is targeted to be available as part of the satellite TV provider's "Total Choice Plus" package in mid-2007. Ovation and DirecTV declined comment on the number of subscribers involved, but Ovation is reaching 5.3 million customers, and the deal with DirecTV will nearly triple that figure.

"This is huge for us," Ovation COO Ron Garfield said. "It's one of the most significant announcements in the history of the network. In 10 years, the channel has never had a national footprint, but now everyone, should they choose to, has the opportunity to watch Ovation."

Ovation — which has carriage agreements with Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS and Comcast, among others — is available in such markets as New York, Chicago, Washington, Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio. Garfield said there are ongoing conversations with additional cable operators about securing further distribution for the network, which aims to make the arts more accessible to viewers, focusing on such disciplines as music, popular arts, theater, dance, opera, literature, film, visual and fine art, design, photography and architecture.

Ovation, led by CEO Charles Segars and chairman Ken Solomon, was acquired in August by a group of private investors including Arcadia Investment Partners, Corporate Partners II, Hubbard Media Group, Perry Capital and the Weinstein Co. Hubbard Media has a previous relationship with DirecTV, whereby as part of the sale of its U.S. Satellite Broadcasting Co. in 1999 to the satellite TV provider, DirecTV became obligated to consider launching future Hubbard channels.

"The Hubbard organization was amazingly helpful in the negotiations," Garfield said. "Certainly their past relationship was a factor."

Upon relaunch, the channel will keep its name, Garfield said, adding that the network's executives are working on several initiatives, including those related to programming and education as well as creating relationships with cultural and arts institutions.

"At the end of the day, supporting arts in the local markets is incredibly good business and makes sense at a lot of different levels," he said. "There's not another programming service out there doing this."