Discovery Buys Into Fanfare5/02/1999 8:00 PM Eastern
Discovery Communications Inc. announced its intent last
week to acquire part ownership in Fanfare: The Classical Music Channel, which is being
targeted for a Thanksgiving launch.
There were no deal details in the announcement from DCI and
the network's existing backers -- Washington, D.C.-based public-television station
WETA and Fanfare LLC chairman Jack Clifford.
Sources involved in the transaction, though, put DCI's stake in Fanfare at somewhere
between $3 million and $5 million.
That figure would be well below the stakes that DCI
initially took in Travel Channel and CBS Eye on People.
DCI originally paid $20 million in cash to Paxson
Communications Corp. for a 70 percent stake in Travel in the fall of 1997, and it bought
the remainder in February 1998.
And the company announced that it took a 50 percent stake
in Eye on People last July. It acquired the rest of the network in December, without
divulging the price.
Clifford, who called the DCI buy "a tremendous vote of
confidence," said the specifics of DCI's involvement have yet to be ironed out.
"They're interested in helping in every way possible," he added.
As of last week, DCI was not expected to get involved in
Fanfare's distribution, which Clifford handles. Clifford has a lot of connections in
the MSO sector, DCI officials noted. But there was a hint from DCI sources that the
company may, at some point, get involved in Fanfare's ad sales.
The former head of Colony Communications Inc. and a Food
Network founder, Clifford said in a phone interview from Arizona that Fanfare "hoped
to make some announcements soon" about signing up MSOs as affiliates and investors.
Fleshing out the programming thrust of Fanfare, Clifford
said its content will be "a classical version of [MTV: Music Television],"
consisting of classical-music videos from major labels like Time Warner and PolyGram.
As MTV early on included videos from record companies that
were originally produced for music-industry consumption, major classical-music labels will
be represented on Fanfare with videos done for music-industry conventions and sales
presentations, he added.