Robert Rader of Ovation TV Gives Shout Out to The Point Media

Robert H. Rader of Ovation TV mentions The Point Media in the below Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal article.

Robert H. Rader

After helping save MGM’s James Bond franchise, Robert Rader is bringing his talent to Ovation TV.

SANTA MONICA ­ “Phantom of the Law School,” “My Fair J.D.” and “Grease” were a just few of the Harvard Law School productions Robert H. Rader acted in as a law student.

But he had no interest in merging the legal industry and the entertainment world. In fact, after he graduated from Harvard College with a degree in sociology, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to become a lawyer, so after completing his first year of law school, Rader enrolled in a graduate program in sociology at Stanford University. He did well in both fields, but ultimately chose law school.

“In law school, I became the person I really wanted to be,” Rader said.

Though initially Rader did not imagine one day becoming an entertainment lawyer, today he is the general counsel of Ovation TV, the nation’s only arts network available in over 50 million homes.

Rader joined Ovation TV as a part of a new management team in 2013, and by the following year had helped guide the network to one of its most successful years since it’s premier in 1997. In 2014, distribution rose to 52 million homes ­ a 23 percent increase from the previous year ­ and prime time ratings increased 32 percent. The network, which has more than 80 full­time employees, also produced a record number of original shows, including “Big Ballet,” “Southern Uncovered” and “The Artful Detective.”

Rader has a role in negotiating all of the network’s deals, including agreements with talent, writers and the studios. The network also launched a multichannel network Ovation Digital Arts and plans to launch a blog called “Culture Pop.”

“We’re doing a lot with TV Everywhere and we’re looking at possible OTT, or over the top strategies,” Rader said. “The consumer is expecting to be able to receive content on demand by which they mean anytime, anywhere.”

“The people that are making content that is exciting and interesting are online and we need to be where those creators are,” he added.

Rader is no stranger to building and strengthening companies. He spent nine years in the legal department at Metro­Goldwyn­Mayer Studios Inc., helping guide Home Entertainment division to a billion­dollar enterprise.

Rader was also a key player in litigation between MGM and Sony over the “James Bond” franchise. Sony had attempted to make its own James Bond, claiming one of the producers gave the company rights. MGM sued, and during litigation Rader pointed out that the original creator, Ian Fleming, didn’t live into a “second term of copyright” and therefore the producer didn’t have the U.S. rights to give to Sony.

“I’m the guy that saved James Bond,” Rader said. “I would’ve loved to have gotten an Asten Martin or a BMW out of it.”

Rader did some writing when he first moved to Los Angeles, but he also worked as an attorney with Hufstedler & Kaus, which merged into Morrison & Foerster LLP. After MGM, he headed back to private practice at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP and then an entertainment boutique firm, where he was a name partner.

“After a few years, I really missed being in­house,” Rader said.

Daily Journal staff writer Melanie Brisbon recently sat down with Rader in his Santa Monica office to discuss outside counsel, the entertainment industry, and the triumphs and challenges of being a general counsel at Ovation TV. Here is an edited transcript of their conversation:

Daily Journal: Describe an average day.

Rader: Exhausting! I deal more with real estate and HR than I ever would have expected. When you’re general counsel, you deal with everything. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with having military support. On a daily basis what often becomes most crazy and urgent is this: We’re producing shows and we need to know what can go in the show. You have to get the clearance done. You have to go out and license more content. We deal with every studio. We have to deal with their forms. We’re also trying to change what we do to get more “TV Everywhere” rights because that’s what the consumer wants. Doing deals with outside producers. Doing deals with talent. I’m also corporate secretary, so I deal with our board. I have several titans of industry on my board.

DJ: What are some of your main responsibilities?

Rader: I deal with distribution, acquisition, production. That’s huge. We’re a cable network. Our Number 1 priority is to have more subscribers and to increase distribution. I have huge responsibilities for our digital initiative Ovation Digital Arts. Luckily, I’ve always done digital.

DJ: What are your thoughts about unbundling content and how does Ovation address issues relating to it?

Rader: While I understand the attraction of unbundling, it is based on the premise that consumer choice will be maximized by unbundling. In fact, when you unbundle content and force each piece of content to be paid for on its own, there is an actual reduction in the amount of choice for consumers. The analyst, Laura Martin, has done some empirical research and concludes that only 15 to 25 networks could really survive in a completely unbundled world. That is a drastic narrowing of the content ecosystem, which is based on multiple levels of cross­subsidies. In the entertainment world, the hits pay for the misses. A hit television show subsidizes the misses for each network. Likewise, a “hit” network subsidizes the rest of the cable package. The problem is, you never know who will have the hits until after they debut. So, a stable cable ecosystem actually generates more hits because it generates more content overall. The New York Times recently ran an article demonstrating that you would pay more to get all your programming in an unbundled world than you do in a bundled world.

Much of Ovation’s work is now spent on demonstrating our value, as the only arts and culture network, as part of the cable package. But, we are now developing more online and [over the top] initiatives to get content directly to the consumer. There is a vast, unsatisfied hunger for more arts content and we should be a part of satisfying that fundamental desire for creative expression.

DJ: You were somewhat involved in the merger with Comcast and Time Warner. What are your thoughts on that and what involvement did you have?

Rader: That failed merger was a real opportunity for us to endorse Comcast as they have been very supportive of Ovation and the arts generally. Although we may have expected certain conditions to be imposed by the FCC for that merger, in general we have found Comcast is a company that has avoided dropping or negotiating punitively with the independents. So, based on our experience, we were willing to be a “reference” for Comcast in that regard and to continue to work with them on future deals. We also had a very positive relationship with Time Warner Cable.

DJ: Describe the ideal qualities for outside counsel.

Rader: They have to be very knowledgeable and I generally hire them for their expertise. We use the Point Media for a lot of our acquisition and production work. I do a lot of the business affairs and they do a lot of the legal affairs and I supervise the legal affairs on top of that. We use Sheppard Mullin a lot for our corporate work. We

also use Sheppard Mullin for employment. We use Covington & Burling for most of our deals with affiliates, i.e., DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter. We use Greenberg Traurig for certain entertainment matters. Typically when you go to outside counsel, you need answers quickly. They have to be fast. There is no way … to be successful without outside counsel that is very strong.

DJ: Are there any regulations and legislation that could affect the company?

Rader: We tend to get indirectly affected by the major FCC issues like retransmission consent and net neutrality. When affiliates have to spend so much money to obtain retransmission rights from local stations, the claim is that they have less money for independent networks like Ovation. There is occasionally the call to restrict MFN, or most favored nations clauses, in cable contracts which require a cable network to give the most favorable terms you have with any distribution affiliate to the affiliate that obtained the MFN. These end up being quite onerous to a small independent network, especially taking into account our leverage in the marketplace, as it creates a “race to the bottom” in terms of your rate.

DJ: What major deals and transactions are coming down the pipeline? Rader: We are working on some exciting digital initiatives having just launched our own [multi­channel network] Ovation Digital Arts this year. It’s been growing

tremendously and it really plays to our strengths in becoming more of an online presence as well as my own experience helping launch several digital networks over the years. We are doing more product integrations and sponsorships with content, as the ad sales world and the content world continue to merge. There are interesting plays happening as old media and new media try to find ways to leverage each other.

melanie_brisbon@dailyjournal.com

Courtesy of Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal.