Sundance Channel announces new series


NEW YORK - Sundance Channel Wednesday announced a new talk show hosted by Elvis Costello and executive produced by Elton John as well as seven new shows in development for 2009, but declined to confirm or deny reports that the channel is up for sale.

"NBCU and CBS are the fourth mommy and daddy we've had since this network was founded 12 years ago," Sundance president and CEO Larry Aidem said at a pre-upfront breakfast with reporters in New York. "It's the fifth if you count the split of Viacom 2-1/2 years ago. We are used to changes in ownership. It's happened before and rumors of changes in ownership have happened before . But one constant has been Robert Redford. He's been there from the beginning. He's deeply involved in the creative part of our business. We're not missing a beat. If something happens it happens."

Sundance said it would begin airing 13 episodes of "Spectacle: Elvis Costello with ..." later this year. Produced in conjunction with Elton John's Rocket Pictures, the series will air on CTV in Canada and Channel 4 in the UK. FremantleMedia Enterprises will handle sales of the show to the rest of the world.

The series will feature everything from intimate one-on-ones with legendary performers and notable newcomers to thematic panel discussions, with a variety of performance elements, Sundance said.

Redford was not at Wednesday's presentation but is scheduled to appear at small upfront presentations for advertisers in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York on April 29, April 30 and May 1.

Sundance Channel executive vp and GM, programming and creative affairs Laura Michalchyshyn also announced the premiere of the original series "Architecture School" in September. The six-part series follows students enrolled in Tulane University's School of Architecture as they design and build a sustainable home for a low income family in New Orleans.

The new shows in development -- which still only have working titles -- include "Eco Trip: The Real Cost of Living," a behind-the-scenes series hosted by Adventure Ecology founder David de Rothschild that examines the environmental impact of everyday items such as cotton t-shirts and rolls of toilet paper.

"World's Greatest Treasure Hunt" features the head buyer for popular retail chain Anthropologie traveling the world in search of unique items to sell in the stores. "Johnny Weir: Black Swan Rising" is a docu series about the controversial figure skating Olympian. "Extreme to Mainstream" explores how avant garde artists enter mainstream culture"; "Good Design" explores what goes into the design of everything from fashion and gadgets to architecture and cars; "Toy Design" takes a look inside the secret workshops where the next big toys are being invented, and "The Lazy Environmentalist" features environmental entrepreneur, author and radio personality Josh Dorfman.

Sundance also said in October it will premiere "The War Room +15," a new political documentary directed by Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker, the directing team behind the Academy Award-nominated "The War Room" about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. The new docu will take an in-depth look at how the political process and media culture have changes since the 1992 election.

The channel said it will launch an original web series "The Good Fight" exploring issues of environmental justice on April 22. "Green Porno" an eight-part short film series about the sex life of insects and various creatures from Isabella Rossellini will premiere on and HELIO's mobile service May 5, on VOD in June and on Sundance Channel in July.

Sundance also said original series "Iconoclasts" and "Live from Abbey Road" were renewed. And it announced the hiring of three new sales heads -- Corry Hart from Fine Living, Joshua Northridge from CMT and Dana Perillo from Discovery Communications.

Executives also said that in the next two to three weeks, Sundance will be announcing that the the channel will be repackaged on a more broadly distributed digital tier.