In a stagnant growth environment for many cable channels, Ovation TV bucked the trend in 2008. The arts and culture channel doubled their distribution from 15 to 30 million subscribers through major market launches in Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston, and forged new national deals with major advertisers like Subaru, Bank of America, and Nikon, impressive gets for a small channel in a barren ad climate.
Distributors have helped boost Ovation's visibility. The dramatic increase in subscribers is thanks to deals with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, and Grande Communications. Ovation CEO Charles Segars believes distributors will again step up the number of homes that can access Ovation in 2009. He envisions adding seven to ten million more households and boldly predicts the network will double its revenue this year.
Segars, who took over the company after the Hubbard deal in 2006, says tough economic times are drawing advertisers to niche markets like Ovation, where they can tap in to a specific group of consumers. Ovation's viewers enjoy fine art and are, mostly, early adopters of products, affluent, and educated. They are also underserved in the cable market, Segars believes.
"If you want to advertise on a cop show, there are 50 cop shows to go to...In a 500 hundred channel world, there is no other arts environment."
Ovation has formed partnerships with major art institutions around the country and they have worked to bond with local arts communities and student-artists. In December they worked with Time Warner to re-launch the Los Angeles affiliate of the Alliance of Young Artists and Writers. The program reaches out to parents, educators, and students, by giving teen artists constructive criticism from professionals in the art world as well as helping them to submit their work to a national competition organized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.
"We are proud to be working with these art education organizers to encourage and celebrate young artists in Los Angeles and across the country," said Ovation's SVP of marketing Gaynor Strachan Chun in a statement.
The network's online presence seems to indicate that an impact is being felt among young artists. Ovation's community page boasts a social network of over 5000 artists who have posted more than 40,000 pieces of art for comments and criticism. The network's My Art program is a submission contest in which Ovation selects the best artists from their web site and features their work.
For all its high-brow programming, the network isn't above getting a little bit zany. Their "Battle of the Nutcrackers" holiday special allowed viewers to vote online for their favorite performance of the ballet out of six productions. The winner? A play called "The Hard Nut," a flare up of the Nutcracker which includes alcohol, brawling, and sexual advances. The "Battle of the Nutcracker's" competition doubled Ovation's web site traffic from November to December, Segars said.
Hubbard is the channel's lead investor. Other partners include Arcadia Investment Partners, Corporate Partners II, perry Capital, and the Weinstein Company.