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The Five Spot: Liz Janneman

Liz Janneman says the Trump administration’s effort to defund the arts is unfathomable. The move also strikes at the heart of her network and its mission. Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as non-commercial TV and radio, are on the chopping block (although Congress will have to be convinced to follow the president’s lead).

Janneman is executive VP of network strategy for arts network Ovation TV; she is also president of its charitable concern, The Ovation Foundation, which, Janneman said, “is Ovation TV’s philanthropic arm, providing arts education via its arts education toolkit; and it also provides grants to non-profit organizations via the innOVATION Grant Awards.”

Ovation can afford to be charitable, particularly when being so is an investment in its future. Under Janneman’s watch, its ad revenue has soared. Its singular brand, she argues, is a value added in a marketplace that’s moving away from leveraged bundles. She spoke with Washington bureau chief John Eggerton about the network’s missions, successes and challenges. An edited transcript follows.

How did Ovation boost its ad revenue by 400% since you joined in 2009?

Primarily by creating custom opportunities for key advertisers. We create short-form vignettes and/or long-form programming that marries the key attributes of the brand with the essential, artful storytelling components that peak the interest of our viewers. We listen to the needs of the brand and deliver what we promise.

Ovation TV is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. What are the challenges of getting carriage as an independent?

Considering Comcast is shuttering three channels and rebranding Oxygen while Viacom is now focusing on its six core networks, the more realistic question might be, ‘What is the value proposition of each channel in the bundle?’ It is the realization that the leveraged bundle is no longer a valuable play that is permeating distribution conversations today. This actually plays into Ovation’s strength. We are the only network devoted to the arts.

What are your issues with the Trump administration and how does that relate to your post as head of ad sales for an arts channel?

Ovation has been a dedicated supporter of the arts and nonprofit arts education programs for a decade now. As the only network dedicated to the arts, it’s in our DNA. We’ve worked with numerous arts organizations and programs across the country and have seen firsthand the huge impact federal grants can have. For many of the NEA’s grantees, these funds provide the seed money needed to help get more private funding. This, in turn, provides more jobs and impacts businesses throughout the local communities where these organizations are based. There is also ample evidence of the effectiveness of NEA funded programs like art therapy for veterans and afterschool programs that keep at-risk kids in school and reduce crime rates. Over the years, the NEA has weathered many attempts to drastically cut its budget, but eliminating it entirely is unfathomable to me … and many others.

What can Ovation do to save funding for the arts that power your network?

Ovation created Stand for the Arts back in 2014 as a national initiative to raise awareness, protect access and encourage action on behalf of the arts.

What, if anything, should the government be doing about independents’ access to distribution?

They should review the current rules in place that prevent free market dynamics. Retransmission-consent rules are not being used with its intended purpose and the skyrocketing fees are creating financial burdens, thereby curtailing access for independents that don’t carry this stick.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.