Ovation is “dedicated to artists and every kind of artistic expression.”
- SVP Programming Kris Slava kindly shared his network’s mission, filters, sources, key deal terms and budget ‘sweet spots.
- Kris met with us at Westdoc, and later at MIPCOM with my MDA Singapore delegation.
- Launch: 1996.
- In 2007, the channel was acquired by management and private investors.
- At that time, there were 5 million subscribers.
- Relaunched in 2007, the new Ovation quickly grew thanks to early distribution deals with DIRECTV, Dish, Time Warner and Comcast.
- Today, Ovation reaches a national audience of 51 million homes.
- Ovation is privately-held.
- The channel is advertiser-supported and Nielsen-rated in 2010.
- In 2012, Ovation tripled its Upfront revenue from the previous year.
- “Ovation is a network whose only goal is to tell artistic stories that tug at your emotions.”
- Here is a link to Ovation’s promotions.
- Ovation’s average prime time audience in 3Q 2012 was 59,000.
- Viewing has doubled (+/-) since 2011.
- The mix is 60/40 Women in the key 25-54 demographic.
- A sample of niche US channels with comparably scaled audiences are DIY, IFC, Discovery Fit & Health and Outdoor.
- For many years after the 20007 acquisition: $3-4 million / year
- 2013 estimate: $15 million
According to Kris Slava, “We are looking to add 400-500 hours of new programming in 2013.”
- Original (15%)
- Acquired programming (85%)
- Unscripted: 80-100 hours
- Feature docs: 6-8
- U.S premieres 25%
- Non-premieres 75%
- Powerful storytelling about the arts and artists
- Emotional tug
- Ovation’s filters are: Art, Culture, Music, Dance, Visual Art, Cultural Tourism
- Competing for comparable programs are: The Documentary Channel, though its new schedule hasn’t been announced following its acquisition by Participant Media; PBS, Sundance and others.
- Currently, Ovation has the exclusive off-network rights to seasons 8-9 of So You Think You Can Dance. The channel is running the series on Fridays.
- Click here for the monthly schedule
Ovation has reduced the frequency of its 1-2 week themed programming stunts. An example
- Battle of the Nutcrackers which showcases multiple different productions of the Holiday family classic and asks viewers to vote on their favorite
- Instead, Ovation has increased the frequency of dedicated theme nights. For example, “Artists & Icons” includes profiles of artists and artist-themed movies
Sources of Acquisitions
- Library package deals: 70% of acquisitions.
- Sources include ITV Studios, BBC Worldwide, DRG and others.
- “The others are acquired as individual programs, either from individual producers (around 15%) and distributors (15%)
- “We actively acquire documentaries, films and series at major markets and festivals, including MIP, MIPCOM, BANFF TV, Sundance, Real Screen, SXSW, TIFF, Showcase, IDFA, WESTDOC, IFM and others.”
- “We also do deals with smaller companies, too. Content Media is a good example.”
Exclusivity / Rights
- Ovation seeks exclusive TV, VOD, SVOD, online, mobile device and TV Everywhere viewing rights to programming in North America.
- “Ovation does not currently have any output deals, although we are beginning to explore them with international distributors.”
- “We also acquire scripted shows that tell a dramatic story about art, artists or cultural events.”
- “And there are more MOW’s in the mix since 2011.”
- “These fit in with the brand.”
We asked Kris what Ovation pays for programs, including its ‘sweet spot’, that magical internal benchmark for the cost of a production or acquisition.
“Our license fees for acquisitions start at:
- Feature Docs: $10,000 to $50-150,000 for a Signature doc.
- “Our ‘sweet spot’ to acquire a completed feature doc is $35,000.”
- “And we have begun to contribute completion financing for unique projects, up to $100,000.”
- “A Chance to Dance” is a hybrid observational doc and competition show. The budget is $200,000+ / hour
Ovation’s Sweet Spots
- Low $3,000
- Sweet Spot $35,000
- High $75,000 +/-
- Signature $100,000 for completion finance
- Low $75,000
- Sweet Spot $150,000
- High $250,000 +/-
Reminder: What is the ‘Sweet Spot’?
- Every network is steered by an annual programming budget that establishes or implies a ‘Sweet Spot’ for an hour of original programming.
- This benchmark is based on the network’s investment strategies, revenues, schedule, the competitive situation, contributions from co-producers and partners, and much more.
- The ‘Sweet Spot’ is the cost that the Director/VP of Development/Programming is comfortable presenting to the final decision-maker, expecting buy-in for an approved idea that meets the channel’s mission and on screen standards.
- Ovation is a rapidly growing U.S. channel that is uniquely focused on the category of arts and contemporary culture
- With broader distribution and the new pressure of Nielsen ratings, Ovation has inevitably shifted its programming schedule from classical arts to popular culture-based entertainment that is artist-themed.
- The channel offers modest opportunities for documentary filmmakers.
- Ovation is also actively looking for co-production deals to help bolster its original programming slate.
Ovation is based in Santa Monica CA.
- Michelle Zajic, VP Acquisitions & Scheduling
- Mary Carlin, Director Programming, with responsibility for docs
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