Arts network Ovation said during its upfront presentation today that it will premiere nine new original series this summer and fall. It also unveiled 16 more series in the works for 2014. The ramp-up will see 236 hours of original fare produced this year compared with 46 hours in 2012, which was double the amount in 2011. With this seismic shift in our programming focus, we are making the leap to become a full-service arts network — America’s only arts network”, said Robert Weiss, Ovation’s Chief Creative Officer, who made the announcements today. The majority of programming will be produced at the network’s new Ovation Studios in Santa Monica. The network also revealed a new tagline: Art Everywhere. Here are descriptions of five of the network’s new shows (the rest will be announced in June) and the development slate: READ MORE »
EXCLUSIVE: Ovation laid off employees in its Santa Monica office Friday, a month after Time Warner dumped the arts channel from its lineup citing poor ratings and a less-than-compelling programming slate. Reps would not confirm the size of today’s staff cuts but sources say layoffs hit 20-25 employees — almost a fourth of its 95-person corps. Chief Creative Officer Robert Weiss confirms to Deadline that the layoffs are the first wave of a company-wide reorganization that will affect its LA, Chicago, and New York offices as Ovation whittles its resources in order to relaunch stronger programming initiatives in 2013 and 2014, a must if the six-year-old cable arts outpost is going to survive the Time Warner blow-off.
The arts channel went dark on the No. 2 cable company’s systems yesterday, although Crown Media’s Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel — which were also on the bubble — survived with a last-minute, long-term carriage deal. But Time Warner Cable warns subscribers in an online notice today that there’s no guarantee it will continue to carry several other channels whose contracts expire soon including mainstays such as E!, Lifetime, and Starz, and a bevy of international services. While AMC Networks-owned IFC and WEtv made it into 2013 on Time Warner Cable, they’re still in jeopardy — along with soccer channel GOL TV — as part of CEO Glenn Britt’s campaign to rationalize the company’s bloated channel offerings. Former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV also remains in danger, although it survived a possible year-end purge. Other channels Time Warner Cable identified as being under review include Encore, Music Choice, News 12, NHL Network, ShopNBC, Smithsonian HD, and Style Network. Last month, Britt said at an investor conference that his company is “going to take a hard look at each service and those services that cost too much relative to the viewership, we’re going to drop them.” With the economy “bouncing along the bottom,” he said that “the consumer is telling us that we can’t afford these prices anymore.”
UPDATED: This seems to be what Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt was talking about this month when he threatened to drop some channels as a way to control costs. The cable company has informed Ovation that it will be dumped at the end of the year, when its contract expires. “Ovation is among the poorest performing networks, and is viewed by less than 1% of our customers on any given day,” the No. 2 cable operator says. “We’ve paid more than $10 million in carriage fees to Ovation over the past several years. They’ve had ample opportunity to improve the ratings and the content, and have failed to deliver.” It adds that Ovation’s not as arts-oriented as it claims: “One 7-day period in November 2012 shows that 70% of their schedule was old movies that are repeated, numerous repeats of the PBS show Antique Road Show, Infomercials that are unrelated to the arts, and repeats of TV shows from broadcast networks….Just as broadcast and cable networks make decisions to cancel or move shows that fail to perform, we are obliged to make the same decisions with networks.” Ovation doesn’t buy Time Warner Cable‘s cost-control argument. “While they are investing huge amounts in sports programming, they’ve chosen to limit their customers’ viewing options by cutting the only arts network in their lineup,” Ovation’s EVP Content Distribution Brad Samuels says. “Ultimately, we hope that Time Warner Cable will see the value our other Affiliate partners see in Ovation and will reconsider their decision.”
ITV Studios America has appointed Rob Shaftel as SVP Development (East Coast). Based in ITV Studios America’s New York office, he will develop new programming for the U.S. broadcast and cable markets, reporting to Bruce Robertson, head of development for ITV Studios America. Shaftel was previously VP Development at unscripted production company Leftfield Pictures and worked in program development at Discovery.