When Cablevision and its programming arm bought Sundance Channel a couple years ago, the big question was why. Why add a second indie film network to the roster. One reason may have been favorable financial results. Another seems to be that change was in the air. It appears that IFC is becoming less film and sponsorship. "Instead of art-house films backed by sponsorship messages, IFC is increasingly running accessible indie movies, original series, reruns of cult comedies -- and traditional commercials." No longer saying this hour sponsored by, but offering 2 minutes of 30 second commercial breaks every 15 minutes in a traditional advertising wheel for TV. That means programming to a broader base, which translates to more viewers, more advertising minutes and thus more revenue. Obviously that change will be gradual in an attempt to keep the current viewers engaged while striving to attract new one.
This strategy is not a new one for Rainbow. It has been perfected before. When Rainbow owned Bravo Network (before selling it to NBC), they successfully moved it from a cultural channel with broader interest programming to a more general interest network. They also successfully converted it from sponsorship messages to the traditional ad model. It proved a successful transition that resulted in unlocking greater value from the channel. So most likely Rainbow has dusted off and reopened this playbook for IFC. And if they follow its action plans, they will have similar results. With Sundance Channel in their stable, they still have a network for more indie films and they can push those viewers over who still seek this programming. But don't get too comfortable. I suspect in another 10 years, Sundance Channel will also convert to traditional advertising, and indie films will only be available on demand.