MTV Networks Sells Tempo

As B&C reported first, MTV Networks sold Caribbean music and culture network Tempo to a group of local investors headed by its founder. Frederick A. Morton Jr., who founded the network as an MTVN employee, is heading the group. The deal closed Nov. 8 and terms were not disclosed.

The sale comes as MTVN restructures its cable group in an effort to improve international profitability, taking ownership stakes in bigger markets and creating licensing deals in smaller ones.

“We are proud of the tremendous strides Tempo has taken in such a short time, and we wish Frederick and everyone at the channel continued success,” said VH1 executive vice president and general manager Tom Calderone, who helped to oversee the channel.

MTVN launched Tempo in November 2005 in markets across the islands through a carriage deal with 100,000-subscriber Innovative Cable TV. MTVN said at the time that Tempo would debut in North America in 2006, although that did not happen.

Cable & Wireless, the international telecommunications company, was the charter sponsor, and the network has run a mix of original and acquired programming from MTVN's library and local Caribbean networks, including shows from hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean.

“Tempo’s mission to elevate the culture of this dynamic region is enhanced by this deal. I want to thank MTV Networks for providing the foundation for the channel’s launch and my Caribbean people for embracing the network,” Morton said in a statement.

By selling its venture in Tempo to local investors, MTVN lowers its risk with the channel by passing on advertising-sales responsibility to the local buyer but continuing to license its programming to the network.

In June, for example, the company sold its 53% share in MTV Russia for $360 million to Prof-Media, a local company with media interests. Prof-Media acquired 100% of the venture with plans to run the network under a license agreement.

Viacom president Philippe Dauman “has been trying to work on the cost side of the equation to lift the margin and focus energies on where they should redeploy their efforts,” Miller Tabak media analyst David Joyce said.