This should relieve investors who feared that Madison Square Garden Executive Chairman Jim Dolan‘s decision to invest $125M in an entertainment partnership with music manager Irving Azoff would leave the sports and entertainment company strapped for cash. MSG says that it has been “approached by certain parties expressing interest in Fuse and [has] retained JP Morgan to explore all strategic alternatives” — which usually means a sale. The music channel reaches 73M pay TV homes, and distributors pay an average of 8 cents per month for each home. Fuse could sell for about $300M, Credit Suisse analyst Michael Senno figures following Al Jazeera’s agreement to pay $500M for Current TV which collected about 11 cents per sub from distributors. That would “more than offset capital used in recent investments” including the Azoff deal and a $25M investment in Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas. Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil also notes that Fuse could command a healthy price because its deals with distributors would enable a buyer to reprogram the network to offer “anything other than live sports.” Many MSG shareholders are eager to see the company return cash to them, possibly by repurchasing shares.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Helena Bonham Carter, British Film Censor, Fuse Becomes Fabrik Entertainment & More
London Critics To Fete Helena Bonham Carter
The London Critics Circle is set to honor Helena Bonham Carter with the Dilys Powell Award for Excellence in Film at the 33rd awards ceremony on January 20 in the capital city. Bonham Carter said in response, “To be chosen for this award is a surprise and an honor. I am delighted! It’s always nice when critics say something nice about you for a change, and especially the critics in your hometown.” Previous recipients have included Dirk Bogarde, Richard Attenborough, Julie Walters, Judi Dench, Nicolas Roeg, Quentin Tarantino and Kristin Scott Thomas. Bonham Carter’s most recent film roles include Miss Havisham in Mike Newell’s Great Expectations and Mme Thénardier in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables. The London Critics Circle announces its film nominations on December 18.
New York, NY (March 20, 2012) – Fuse, the national music television network of The Madison Square Garden Company, today announced its development slate featuring a variety of comedy, documentary, animated and scripted series all rooted in music. The slate reflects Fuse’s robust development pipeline, with many more deals to come, as the network furthers its commitment to adding original programming to the existing music-focused lineup.
IN DEVELOPMENT (all titles listed are working titles)
Execs at marginal cable channels who want to know how determined pay TV operators are to clear away what they consider programming deadwood should keep an eye on the carriage spat between Madison Square Garden and Time Warner Cable. They’re engaged in the season’s hottest battle over programming costs as they negotiate renewal terms for their current contract that expires on December 31. Per usual, there’s a lot of noise about who’d be most responsible for inconveniencing consumers if there’s in impasse — with most of the focus on the possible loss of popular regional sports channels MSG and MSG+, which carry the New York Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, and Buffalo Sabres. MSG has a hotline (1-888-keepmsg) that encourages Time Warner Cable customers to jump to another pay TV provider. “As excitement builds for the return of the NBA, Time Warner Cable is threatening to pull MSG Networks from its systems,” the programmer says. The cable company says that “the ball’s in MSG’s court, so these channels will come off only if MSG pulls the plug.”
But the most important issue is whether the No. 2 cable company will be able to drop MSG’s music video channel Fuse from its lineup — potentially resulting in $10M a year in lost revenue for MSG. “Fuse is watched by fewer than one-tenth of one percent of the customers who have it available — that’s just 4,000 customers out of more than 7.4M,” says Mike Angus, Time Warner Cable’s SVP Content Acquisition. MSG’s effort to package the music service with its popular regional sports channels “is nothing more than a tax on New York sports fans.” MSG says that Fuse “appeals to a growing audience of a desirable demographic and its unique partnership with MSG Entertainment ensures it offers programming, access, and promotion that no one else can.” The average pay TV provider pays about six cents a month for each customer who receives Fuse, SNL Kagan estimates.
EXCLUSIVE: Music TV network Fuse has finalized a deal for a series order to half-hour series Funny or Die’s Billy On The Street, starring comedian Billy Eichner. On the series, set to premiere December 22 at 11 PM, Eichner hits the streets of New York City to test pedestrians on their knowledge of pop culture in a fast-paced and comedic trivia-style game show. Funny Or Die’s president of production Mike Farah, Eichner and Krysia Plonka are executive producers. The project stems from Eichner’s viral “man on the street” videos (sample below), which he initially created for his live shows with the Upright Citizens Brigade. Funny Or Die originally made a video with Eichner last year to post on the site, but then the brass felt the video was a great concept for a TV show and pitched it out last spring. Pilot orders from six cable networks — including VH1, BBC America, Comedy Central, Bravo, and E! — followed, with Fuse landing the show after coming in with a straight-to-series order. Funny Or Die’s Billy On The Street marks Funny Or Die’s third series order, joining Funny Or Die Presents on HBO and Jon Benjamin Has A Van on Comedy Central.