Rainbow Spreads ‘Spirit’ Beyond IFC

2/23/2006 4:32 AM Eastern

The Independent Film Channel, which has been the exclusive television home to coverage of the “Independent Spirit Awards” the past 11 years, is sharing the burgeoning event this year with fellow Rainbow Media Holdings LLC networks WE: Women’s Entertainment and AMC.

Its organizers also said the March 4 awards fest -- which has grown from a small gathering of industry insiders to a must stop for celebrities during Oscar weekend -- has been successfully marketed overseas.

This year, 22 countries -- including the United Kingdom, Mexico and locations in Latin America and north Africa -- have licensed coverage from IFC. Canada, through IFC Canada, has had the program the past two years.

IFC’s telecasts have propelled the Independent Spirit Awards’ growth. The ceremony is staged in a huge tent pitched on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., and organizer Film Independent now has to turn away stars who would like to come, executive director Dawn Hudson said.

In past years, the awards have been the sole major recognition for some stellar independently produced films. This year, though, the nominees’ slate is very similar to those up for Academy Awards: BrokebackMountain, Good Night and Good Luck and Capote are up for best picture, for example.

Exclusive advertising partnerships and foreign distribution will help to offset production costs. Coverage will be expanded this year to include a half-hour red-carpet preshow scheduled on WE starting at 4:30 p.m. (EST), with American Honda Motor Co.’s “Odyssey” as exclusive sponsor.

From 5 p.m.-7 p.m., the program shifts to IFC for live coverage of the awards program. Carroll said Film Independent has allowed IFC to involve personalities from the channel’s programming, including musician Henry Rollins and comedienne Sarah Silverman, who will host.

Target Brands Inc. will reprise its role as the sponsor of the awards.

At 10 p.m., AMC will telecast an edited version of the awards show, with the rerun sponsored by Celebrity Cruises Inc.