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Rainbow Revamps Sundance Suite

6/20/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Rainbow Media Holdings was quick to establish an executive hierarchy following the completion of its acquisition of Sundance Channel last week, but questions remain about how it will execute on a programming strategy across its services.

Rainbow — which closed its $496 million purchase from the cofounder of the 30 million-subscriber network, Robert Redford, NBC Universal and CBS Corp.'s Showtime Networks unit on June 17 — promoted Evan Shapiro to president, IFC and Sundance Channel.

In his new role, Shapiro, who had been serving as executive vice president and general manager of IFC, now has oversight of both networks with new general managers for the service reporting directly to him.

Laura Michalchyshyn, formerly Sundance's executive vice president and general manager, programming and creative affairs, was officially named the channel's executive vice president and general manager on June 19. Under Michalchyshyn's direction, Sundance has supplemented its base of independent films with original series Big Ideas for a Small Planet, Iconoclasts and Live from Abbey Road, as well as ecology-oriented programming block, “The Green.”

The same day Jennifer Caserta, formerly IFC's executive vice president of marketing, scheduling and alternative platforms, ascended to the same role at the network.

Elsewhere, former Sundance Channel CEO Larry Aidem was tapped as president of Rainbow Ventures, a position that will see him identify strategic business opportunities and help with Sundance's transition into Rainbow.

Aidem reports directly to Rainbow Media president and CEO Joshua Sapan.

The new executive team is charged with integrating Sundance into Rainbow's portfolio, while harnessing the programmer's resources and strengthening the networks' brand distinction.

“This structure will allow Rainbow to expand its leadership position in the world of independent film while keeping absolutely distinct the brand personalities and programming mandates of these two networks,” said Ed Carroll, president, Rainbow National Entertainment Services, to whom Shapiro continues to report, in a statement. “At the helm of IFC, Evan has demonstrated strong leadership, programming, and branding skills and will bring that expertise to his new role leading both Sundance Channel and IFC tv. Among his priorities will be to keep these brands clearly differentiated as they continue to pursue separate destinies.”

Rainbow would not discuss how it planned to execute that strategy, or if it planned to amortize programming investments and acquisitions across the services, which have largely been viewed as competitors in the independent film sphere.

Shapiro declined an interview request last Friday.

Moreover, analysts anticipate that there will be consolidation among the ranks as Rainbow looks to wring administrative savings and staffing synergies.

A Rainbow spokesman said she could not comment further on personnel matters at press time.

The 12-year-old Sundance went on the market in February after neither NBCU (which owns 57%) nor CBS (37%) could buy out the other partners.

UBS Investment Bank handled the sale, which was said to have drawn interest from more than one strategic buyer.

September