EXCLUSIVE. The online TV navigation site could go for about $20M — possibly as much as $25M I’m told — and would enable Lionsgate to cash in on a property that’s considered peripheral to its main production and TV networks businesses. Details about the negotiations are still sketchy; I hear that the potential buyer sees this as a strategic acquisition — it isn’t a private-equity company looking for a quick buck. And while talks are advanced, they still have a way to go, and could still fall apart. Lionsgate reported in May that TVGuide.com had 24M monthly unique users and more than 6.5M mobile application installations. Lionsgate has been weighing options for TVGuide.com for more than a year. It paid $241.6M for the TV Guide website and network in February 2009. Three months later, JP Morgan’s One Equity Partners teamed with investor and producer Allen Shapiro and paid $122.4M for half of the combined operation. Shapiro ran the network and website until a few weeks ago, when he left to run Dick Clark Productions. His lieutenant Mike Mahan is running them on an interim basis.
EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate wants to unload TVGuide.com and, even more importantly, is at least considering an ownership change at TV Guide Network, which has been ordered to balance its books in anticipation of a potential sale. We hear that the studio has begun to interview investment bankers who can quietly sell the consumer website which, like the cable channel, is a 50-50 joint venture with JP Morgan Chase’s global private equity investment arm One Equity Partners. The website is thought to be worth anywhere from $50M to $100M. Lionsgate is intent on shedding what it considers to be non-core assets (just like Lionsgate recently sold its stake in Maple Pictures). TV Guide Network’s owners just secured long-term carriage agreements with the major cable operators, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Charter, further increasing its value. But putting a dollar figure on the TV Guide Network suggests that Lionsgate and One Equity Partners want to at least begin a discussion that could lead to one of the partners buying the other out.
Lionsgate would seem to be the more likely buyer if things go that far: It has said that it wants to build its presence in TV channels; it also owns major stakes in Epix, FearNet, and Asia’s Tiger Gate. ”They’ve made it clear that they have a TV channel strategy,” says Hudson Square Research’s Marla Backer. Lionsgate paid $241.6M for the TV Guide website and network in February 2009. Three months later, One Equity Partners teamed up with investor and producer Allen Shapiro and paid $122.4M for half of the combined operation. Shapiro is chairman of TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com and is now taking on leadership of the network’s programming. (He initially was buying TV Guide from Macrovision until Lionsgate swooped in at the last minute. Ultimately, Shapiro secured a sizeable chunk of it.)
TV Guide Network Cancels Newsmagazine ‘Hollywood 411′, Allen Shapiro Takes Programming Reins After Diane Robina Exits
EXCLUSIVE: TV Guide Channel has canceled its entertainment news show Hollywood 411. The last edition of the weekly celebrity newsmagazine anchored by The Bachelor host Chris Harrison will air this Sunday. As a result of the cancellation, 25 production staff positions associated with the show are being eliminated. The network is in discussions with Harrison, who also has hosted TV Guide red-carpet coverage, about possible future hosting and producing opportunities. The cancellation comes a couple of weeks after programming head Diana Robina quietly exited TV Guide Network after a year-and-a-half stint as EVP Programming and Marketing, though I hear the two are not related. TV Guide Network did try different formats with Hollywood 411, which started off as a weekly magazine, then switched to a daily and then to a weekly again while also alternating between a one- and two-host model. But the show never quite found an audience in the crowded entertainment/celebrity news space (though its ratings were consistent with TV Guide’s averages). Despite that, TV Guide still plans to keep its toe in the arena — a new entertainment news show is now in active development. It is unclear if it would utilize the new set build for Hollywood 411 a few months ago.
Robina had come from the Lionsgate side of the partnership that owns TV Guide Network (and TVGuide.com) along with One Equity Partners and former Dick Clark Prods CEO Allen Shapiro. I hear TV Guide Network chairman Shapiro — who had focused on shoring up the channel’s distribution for the past year or so, recently signing a new long-term carriage deal with Time Warner Cable — will now oversee programming hands-on, working with the team Robina put in place. Her position is not expected to be replaced, at least for now.