Cablevision Systems Corp. is buying the Sundance Channel, a cable network founded by Robert Redford, for $496 million, the New York-area cable TV company announced Wednesday.
The Sundance Channel will become part of Cablevision’s Rainbow Media programming division but will continue on as a distinct network. Rainbow also includes the independent movie channel IFC, AMC and WE tv.
The network was founded in 1996 by the actor-director Redford as an outgrowth of his Sundance Institute, an independent film organization which runs an annual film festival near Park City, Utah.
The channel features independent movies as well as original programming, some of which reflects Redford’s concerns about the environment and progressive issues.
Redford owned a 6 percent stake in the channel, while General Electric Co.’s NBC unit had 57 percent and CBS Corp. owned 37 percent.
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Cablevision will finance the deal with a block of GE stock which it received when NBC bought the Bravo channel from Cablevision and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. in 2002 for $1.25 billion. NBC will get GE shares for its stake, while CBS and Redford will get cash.
Cablevision could be on the verge of announcing another deal of similar size, having made a $650 million bid for the newspaper Newsday, which is located in Cablevision’s home turf of Long Island.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which owns the New York Post, and New York Daily News owner Mortimer Zuckerman are also bidding for Newsday, which is being sold by Chicago-based Tribune Co. in an effort to reduce debt.
Cablevision runs a local news cable channel on Long Island but doesn’t have a background in running newspapers, and the company hasn’t commented on its bid or its interest in getting into the newspaper business.
Cablevision does have a strong record of success running cable channels, however, and its AMC channel won acclaim last year for its original series “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”
It wasn’t clear whether Sundance Channel’s CEO Larry Aidem would remain after the deal closed, and a Cablevision spokeswoman decline to comment on specific operational matters at the channel.
Josh Sapan, the head of Cablevision’s programming unit, said in a statement that the company hoped to build in Sundance’s own slate of original programming such as “The Green” and “The Iconoclasts” in order to further strengthen “the uniqueness of the network.”
Cablevision also owns the Madison Square Garden sports and entertainment arena; the New York Knicks NBA team and New York Rangers NHL team; Radio City Music Hall; the Beacon Theater in New York and the Clearview movie theater chain.