By Frank DiGiacamo (Billboard)
Jennifer Lopez has bested her ex-boyfriend Sean “Puffy” Combs in the contest to acquire cable music channel Fuse TV, say sources familiar with the situation.
NuvoTV, the English-language cable channel where Lopez is a minority owner and serves as the network’s chief creative offer, has reached an agreement with Fuse owner, the Madison Square Garden Company. “Things are in that 99.9 percentile,” says a source familiar with the negotiations, which began when NuvoTV reportedly offered cash and equity valued at more than $200 million.
“It’s getting done,” says another source familiar with the situation.
The first source declined to discuss where NuvoTV and Lopez are getting their financing, or whether they sweetened their deal since Combs, backed by billionaire supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, had reportedly made a similar $200 million offer.
A spokeswoman for Combs referred Billboard to Madison Square Garden Company spokeswoman Kimberly Kerns, who responds: “As we have stated, we are exploring strategic alternatives for Fuse and will have no further comment.”
The assumption in the industry that Lopez and Combs, who owns the fledgling Revolt TV cable channel in partnership with Comcast, were interested in acquiring Fuse to convert the struggling network to their respective programming formats and gain access to Fuse’s 74 million cable households. (NuvoTV and Revolt reportedly reach in the neighborhood of 34 million households.)
But in an interview that took place on earlier this week, before the deal was reached, Lopez’s manager Benny Medina, in a conversation about JLo’s entrepreneurial branding strategy, said that if NuvoTV emerged the victor, there were no immediate plans to change Fuse’s format. “We do look at these channels as two different companies with two different identities, audiences and goals,” Medina said. “And these shall remain intact.”
The plan to maintain Fuse’s format for the time being may have to do with something called a “definition of service” clause that cable operators can include in their contracts with the services they carry.
According to one cable television-industry source, the clause enables operators to drop a network or decrease the fees paid for carriage if the network’s ownership or programming format changes. This could prove to be a synergistic stumbling block given that Fuse’s music-video heavy programming does not bear much resemblance to NuvoTV’s largely non-musical slate of programs, which include reruns of “Dexter” and the new boxing reality show “Knockout.”
Asked if Lopez and Combs’ competing bids for Fuse was a coincidence or a residual effect of their two-year affair that began in 1999– Combs once likened his tumultuous relationship with Lopez to Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner’s romance – Medina replied, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” but added that it had nothing to do with their past history.
“In many ways, Jennifer and Sean are cut from the same cloth,” Medina said. They’re both passionate artists of the same generation who think on a grand and global scale. They were two superstars seeking to build their brand, who happened to be Jennifer and Puffy.” (They’re also both 44 years old.)
He says that Lopez’s transition from the recording studio to the boardroom of NuvoTV “is a conscious move” and part of a larger strategy to build businesses around her that can sustain a lot of what she does as an entertainer and actor.” In addition to her music and acting career, Lopez sells her Jennifer Lopez fashion line through the Kohl’s department store chain and collaborates with Coty on a number of fragrances.
“We’re in an age and time now where artists have to be a lot more involved, invested and creative in marketing and promoting themselves, whether its fashion brands and fragrances that speak to who they are –or a cable TV network. It’s about building a business around the art.”
Despite Lopez’s evolution as an entrepreneur, Medina says her recording career has not taken a backseat. “She is working on her 10th album,” he says. “Her first love is music.”
PLUS THIS JUST IN FROM HISPANICAD.COM….
NUVOtv parent company SiTV Media, Inc. and The Madison Square Garden Company have reached an agreement for SiTV Media to acquire the Fuse network from MSG. This was jointly announced today by Michael Schwimmer, CEO of SiTV Media and its NUVOtv network, and Tad Smith, President and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Company.
“The acquisition of Fuse represents a transformational event for us and also provides significant benefits to NUVOtv,” Mr. Schwimmer stated. “It enhances our distribution relationships, dramatically expands our aggregate subscriber base, provides substantial economies of scale, affords unique opportunities for programming and cross-promotion and should be extremely appealing to the advertising community as we roll out our plans for both NUVOtv and Fuse.”
“We are pleased that Fuse has joined the SiTV Media family, and are looking forward to the continued success of the network,” said Mr. Smith.
Jennifer Lopez – who serves as NUVOtv’s Chief Creative Officer and is a shareholder – said, “Music is my first love so the acquisition of Fuse is near and dear to my heart. It’s exciting that between NUVOtv and Fuse we’ll have the ability to deliver a broad array of terrific content both from a Latino perspective and across multiple genres, including music, to a broader audience. The acquisition of Fuse means we now own two wonderful assets. It’s a phenomenal time for our company and we look forward to growing both networks in the years ahead.”
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