The two current owners of Lifetime Entertainment Services, the Disney-ABC Television Group and Hearst Corporation, are also among the three owners of A&E Television Networks (AETN), with NBC Universal, so the two cable programming companies already have considerable ownership overlap. The merger announced Thursday will put the whole operation under AETN President & CEO Abbe Raven.
Andrea Wong, President and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services, will continue to head the Lifetime Networks and will report to Raven following the closing. Robert DeBitetto, President and General Manager, A&E Network and The Biography Channel, and Nancy Dubuc, President and General Manager, History and History International, will both continue to report to Raven and run their respective networks.
The joint announcement said the new agreement will, upon closing, consolidate three of the nation’s top cable networks under single management while preserving the distinct brand identities of each network. In addition, the combined company will be a global media content company reaching over 250 million homes worldwide in more than 140 countries around the globe. AETN will now include: A&E Network, History, Lifetime Television, Lifetime Movie Network, Bio, History International, Lifetime Real Women, History en Español, Military History and Crime & Investigation Network. Combining the resources, libraries and multiple platforms of 10 brands, including more than 20 Web sites, the announcement said the new company will be well positioned to create new opportunities for expansion and cross-promotion, as well as build upon the record of success and strengths across a broad variety of audiences, platforms and programming. The combination of these businesses is also expected to yield substantial cost efficiencies.
“We are very proud of the success of these important cable brands and the content created with our partners, Disney/ABC and NBCU. The new A&E Television Networks better positions each brand to continue to focus on the world-class storytelling and quality original programs they are known for,” said Scott Sassa, president, Hearst Entertainment & Syndication.
“Consolidating these networks puts a powerful portfolio of distinct brands under the strategic vision of one of the industry’s most innovative and effective leaders. The new company will be much greater than the sum of its parts, positioning these brands for a new level of success and performance,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, and president of the Disney/ABC Television Group.
“AETN’s success is the result of a long and very successful partnership involving NBCU, Disney/ABC and Hearst. This transaction represents the next stage of this partnership and the evolution of some terrific media brands,” said Jeff Gaspin, Chairman, NBC Universal Television Entertainment.
NBCU, however, may not be in for the long-haul. Under the agreement, there are mechanisms by which NBCU may elect or be required to exit AETN over a period of up to 15 years, in which event Disney and Hearst could become 50/50 owners of AETN.