Segars: Comcast Plays Fair With Independent Programmers

Posted March 10, 2010 at 11:24am

At the heart of American democracy is our commitment to free speech and expression. So, it is vital to our freedom that Americans enjoy unrestricted access to that free speech and expression.

[IMGCAP(1)]Since 1996, Ovation TV, a privately funded, independent cable television network, has dedicated itself to providing viewers the best in creative expression through arts and culture programming. Ovation is one of a kind. No other national network offers viewers this type of content day after day. Having provided more than $5 million in cash and in-kind support over the past three years, Ovation is also a key partner of America’s cultural institutions and arts education initiatives in cities and towns nationwide.

Since relaunching Ovation in 2007, the network has grown from 5 million to 38 million homes. Much of this success is in part due to our outstanding business relationship with Comcast Cable. Comcast has become an important distributor of our unique programming, adding more than 3 million homes to our distribution base and growing every quarter. Most importantly, it has become a key partner in numerous local arts education initiatives, including helping us provide access to free museum visits and building awareness of cultural events and programming in Comcast local markets.

While critics are fast to point out that these 3 million homes represent a small portion of the Comcast footprint, the relationship with the “new” Ovation is a young one. As we continue to deliver on our promise of providing a unique arts programming service to its customers, Comcast will continue to roll us out and provide our service broad, unrestricted access to customers in all of its markets nationwide. The NBC Universal-Comcast merger will not affect that rollout.

It is has been our experience that Comcast pays competitive carriage fees to independent programmers. Those fees enable us and other programmers to invest in even greater programming for their viewers and more marketing to reach them, all the while creating lasting jobs in a variety of communities. We believe that a NBC Universal-Comcast merger will not affect the fees that Comcast pays to us nor to any other independent programmers.

Comcast has a strong record of launching viable, independent channels. Viable is the key term here. Not everyone with an idea for a channel should be provided distribution. How can anyone expect Comcast to accept every idea that comes through its door? As in the case of Ovation, Comcast has been responsive to those channels with good plans to meet the interests of viewers not currently being met in the marketplace, the right team with proven expertise, solid financial backing and a compelling value proposition.

Comcast has also stated it will continue to create more opportunities for viable, independent programmers. It has committed, upon completing its digital migration companywide in 2011, to add two new, independently owned and operated channels to its lineup each year for the next three years on customary terms and conditions.

Comcast has recognized Ovation’s many attributes, including its service in local communities across our nation, and has provided us with growing distribution on its platform at competitive rates. We enjoy a relationship that has required good faith negotiations, and we are confident that relationship will only continue to grow stronger after the merger.

Charles Segars is CEO of Ovation TV, the only television channel and online platform dedicated to art, culture and personal creativity. He is also the founder of Los Angeles-based Sparkler Entertainment.