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IFC To Debut On Time Warner Cable This Fall

IFC To Debut On Time Warner Cable This Fall

Time Warner Cable Of New York Announces New Tier Of Programming; IFC To Debut On The System This Fall

by Eugene Hernandez

Six months after igniting a full-blown marketing war between the Independent
Film Channel
(IFC) and The Sundance Channel, Time Warner Cable of New York City seemingly brought the battle to a conclusion yesterday with the announcement that it has selected the IFC as the sole indiefilm-focused channel on its new tier of programming set to debut this fall. The announcement, which had been
the subject of rumors and speculation for some time, came yesterday morning.
Dubbed MetroChoice, the new tier of cable programming will feature 11 new
channels, including Turner Classic Movies, Ovation (an arts channel), TV Land and BET on Jazz. It is expected to debut in November.

In a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday, Time Warner Cable of New York
City President Barry Rosenblum explained that the choice between the IFC and
Sundance was a difficult one. While convinced that either channel would have
been an excellent option, Rosenblum revealed that the IFC “appealed to a
broader audience” than the Sundance Channel. When asked about the Sundance
Channel’s chances at a spot on the system in the future he offered, “As
digital converters and digital services get perfected we anticipate, in a few
years, being able to add a few channels.”

As early as November of last year the battle lines between the two indie
channels were being drawn and it quickly became quite evident that this town
just might not be big enough for the two outlets. News of John and Janet
Pierson’s cable show, “Split Screen“, being rejected by the Sundance Channel
was the shot heard ’round the city late last fall; the Sundance and “Split Screen” camps traded barbs and the show was later picked up by the IFC. A mere three weeks later, The Sundance Channel withdrew its sponsorship of the FUEL tour — organizers immediately sought (and later secured) support from the IFC. Even indieWIRE was caught in the crossfire — both channels were primary sponsors of editorial coverage in Park City this past January, and at the time an executive at one of the channels quipped, “The best thing that could have happened to you guys is the competition between us.”

Clearly a number of organizations capitalized on the competition. Both
channels staked their claim at numerous domestic film festivals and other
events; The Sundance Channel unveiled sponsorship of a new series of IFP
programs in New York City, meanwhile the IFC touted its broadcast of the
Spirit Awards and coverage from Cannes. Before long however, benefits
diminished: in late Spring and early Summer of this year a war of words
reached fever pitch and independent films and filmmakers were caught in the
middle. Responding to comments that Sundance Channel Sr. VP of Sales and
Affiliate Marketing Tom Christie made in a Village Voice article, IFC website
columnist (and on-air contributor) Jeff Lipsky called Christie a “putz” and
vented with comments that were on the verge of insulting to the very audience
both channels were supposedly created to embrace.

IFC President Kathleen Dore discussed her company’s marketing campaign and
looked to the future during a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday. She
spoke optimistically about the eight year deal with Time Warner Cable and the
partnership to woo subscribers to opt for the new programming tier, vowing to
expand the channel’s brand with deals similar to the one which created two
new companies earlier this year, IFC Productions and Next Wave Films.
Meanwhile, Tom Christie at the Sundance Channel touted his network’s
availability on the small Manhattan upstart system, Liberty Cable, and
discussing the Time Warner decision, vowed to keep the pressure on for wider
clearance and promised to maintain visibility in New York City.
Additionally, he commented that the channel will continue to serve as a
viable cable outlet for independent films, revealing that the announcement of
a deal with a major distributor is a few weeks away. Coincidentally, the
Time Warner Cable decision came just one day after General Cinemas and the
Sundance Institute announced a deal to create Sundance Cinemas, a new
theatrical venue for indiefilms.

Time Warner Cable’s MetroChoice programming tier will be available, at a
minimal additional charge, this fall to Manhattan and Queens residents in
“upgraded” neighborhoods — about 20% of the system’s one million
subscribers. The remaining subscribers will be upgraded, and equipped to opt
for MetroChoice, over the next four years at a rate of 20% per year.

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