Mark Cuban Sells Majority Stake in AXS TV, HDNet Movies Network

Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark Tank” alum Mark Cuban Sept. 9 disclosed he has sold majority stake in AXS TV and HDNet Movies Network to TV personality Steve Harvey and Anthem Sports.

Anthem Sports will assume operating management of the two channels that cater to music, sports, entertainment and lifestyle audiences. The deal also includes AXS TV’s extensive library of owned programming, including wrestling, MMA and entertainment content.

Originally founded as HDNET by Mark Cuban in 2001. The channel was rebranded to AXS TV in 2012 after partnering with AEG, leading to additional music content development.

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The network’s current programming lineup features live concerts and events, music-themed information and reality programming, live wrestling and MMA, and off-network runs of popular music-themed programming. The network is distributed to more than 50 million homes.

AEG includes AXS TV as part of its own sponsorship portfolio, bringing many AEG partners to the network.

HDNet Movies, available in approximately 12 million U.S. homes, features theatrically released films and documentaries presented in high definition, including a variety of iconic classics and award winners spanning the 1950s to 2000s.

The networks add significantly to Anthem’s rapidly growing portfolio of content, which is currently available in 120 countries and includes diverse and popular sports and entertainment programming targeted to passionate communities with a focus on millennial viewers.

“The addition of AXS TV and HDNet Movies will allow for increased content ownership, digital expansion and even more compelling programming for consumers and our distribution partners,” Leonard Asper, CEO of Anthem Sports & Entertainment, said in a statement.

Cuban and AEG will continue to participate as equity partners, and AEG Global Partnerships, AEG’s advertising and sponsorship sales unit, will continue to support the channels in conjunction with Anthem’s sales team.

Joining as an investor is entertainer, producer and businessman Harvey, who will also enter into a strategic agreement for content development and promotion of Anthem’s portfolio of channels. Steve Harvey Global will have a seat on the board of directors of Anthem.

Anthem’s board of directors will also include Ted Goldthorpe, head of BC Partners Credit, a lead financier on the acquisition; Rick Ehrman, a former senior executive at Univision and NBC Universal; Robert Foster, founder and CEO of Capital Canada; Scott Honour, founding principal of Northern Pacific Group; and Loudon Owen, chairman and CEO of DLT Labs.

“Anthem’s combination of targeted brands, enthusiastic audiences, operational expertise, international footprint and vision makes them an ideal partner to take AXS TV and HDNet Movies to their next levels,”  Cuban said. “Given Anthem’s portfolio of premium content and complementary programming networks, we could not ask for a better home, and we are looking forward to the results we will collectively generate for this new partnership.”

“My team and I see great opportunity in Anthem,” Harvey said. “They have incredible shows, experiential entertainment, and a huge reach. We look forward to collaborating with Anthem on content development that will surprise and delight this newly expanded audience.”

AXS TV and HDNet Movies will continue operating from their existing facilities in Denver and Los Angeles, and the combined company will include Anthem’s playout and production center in Toronto and production facilities in Nashville and Europe.

“Anthem Sports & Entertainment brings a legacy of delivering boundary-breaking programming that perfectly aligns with our programming strategy and global concert venue and music festival assets,” said Charles Hirschhorn, President, AEG TV. “The combination of these television networks with Anthem creates global video destinations for ‘must see’ event programming.”

With this transaction, Anthem channels are now estimated to reach nearly 150 million global TV homes, including more than 110 million MVPD-served TV households in the U.S. and Canada.

In addition, Anthem’s proprietary content is distributed to more than 160 million global TV homes through licensing agreements with some of the world’s premier networks. Anthem’s networks and content also are available on nearly every major streaming service and digital platforms.

Anthem has offices and studios in New York, Toronto, Los Angeles and Nashville, and in Europe. Its portfolio includes:

“Impact Wrestling,” one of the world’s largest wrestling entertainment properties, creating more than 300 hours of original content annually across television and other digital platforms.

The channel specializes in premium content, pay-per-view events, products and merchandise, as well as the management, promotion and training of professional wrestlers.

“Impact Plus,” a multi-platform mobile app and digital subscription video-on-demand platform and one of the newest additions to the Anthem family of services, featuring live monthly premium network specials, instant access to the 3,000-plus hour Impact Wrestling library, groundbreaking original series, reality shows, documentaries, and exclusive events from international partners.

“Fight Network,” the world’s premier combat sports channel, dedicated to complete coverage of combat sports including fights, fight news and the fight lifestyle as well as mixed martial arts, boxing, kickboxing, professional wrestling, traditional martial arts and more.

“Fight Network” produces and owns its own library of fight themed documentaries and interview programs and is delivered to more than 43 million TV homes in the U.S., Canada and more than 15 other countries.

“GameTV,” featuring game show formats and programming, both current and past; reality, drama and documentary series; feature films; sports-based games including esports, poker, and card-based games; and live sporting events – all delivered to more than 8 million television homes throughout Canada.

“GameTV” also features online cash and social gaming through igamestv.com.

Game+, a cutting edge, millennial-targeted sports and entertainment channel, featuring sports-wagering programs, esports events, news and information, fantasy sports programming, high stakes poker, and other action-driven shows and lifestyle programming.

Game+ is distributed in more than 1 million MVPD TV homes in Canada and the U.S.

Pursuit Channel, one of the top outdoor channels in the U.S, offering outdoor enthusiasts diverse programming from calm freshwater fishing to fast-paced deer and waterfowl hunting. Pursuit Channel is available to more than 35 million TV homes in the US served by cable, satellite and IPTV.

Through its app PursuitUP the channel is also available on OTT streaming services.

MGM Studios Forms Benelux Reality TV Production Unit

MGM Studios has partnered with Dutch-based TV producers to create reality-based programing for Benelux countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

MGM, together with Roy Aalderink and Peter Lubbers, formed the unscripted TV production company Concept Street, headquartered in Holland.

The announcement signals MGM’s expansion into local television production internationally. Under the deal, Concept Street has an exclusive first-look at MGM’s unscripted formats in the Benelux countries and MGM will serve as the distributor of all Concept Street IP outside of the Benelux.

Aalderink and Lubbers will run the day-to-day operations as co-managing directors with an ownership stake in the company. They will work with Mark Burnett, president, television group & digital, MGM and Chris Ottinger, president worldwide television distribution & acquisitions, on distribution.

“Roy and Peter possess an exceptional understanding of the Benelux market and knowledge about what resonates with audiences in the region,” Burnett said in a statement.

Indeed, Aalderink created, sold and produced multiple original formats, including “My Last Words,” “Save My Holiday,” “Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour ” and “Ugly Ducklings.”

Previously, Aalderink worked for several online platforms and streamers when holding positions as CEO at both Zodiak Netherlands and Strix Television Benelux.

He also paired up with a wide array of distributors to produce local versions of international formats, including “Celebrity Wife Swap,” “Survivor,” “Say Yes to the Dress,” “Embarrassing Bodies” and “The Undateables.”

Lubbers has held positions at various production companies, including Endemol, Medical Multi Media and Zodiak Netherlands, where he served as CEO.

He was responsible for Dutch adaptations of international hit-shows, such as “Maestro,” “Dancing With The Stars,” “Fort Boyard” and “MasterChef.”

The joint venture comes as MGM is experiencing growth in television production. New programs include “Steve Harvey’s FUNDERDOME,” “Minor Renovations,” where junior designers compete to renovate home spaces in need of a makeover; Signed, which features aspiring musicians who compete for the opportunity to be signed to a major record label; and Married 10, which follows married couples as they test their relationship in a daring social experiment.

Known for unscripted and scripted TV content, MGM Television in 2017 set a studio record with 47 Emmy Award nominations and 11 wins, which included Outstanding Drama Series for “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu), Outstanding Structured Reality Program for “Shark Tank” and Outstanding Reality-Competition Series for “The Voice.”

In 2018, MGM took home three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Drama Series and Best Actress in a Drama Series for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and Best Actor in a Limited Series for Ewan McGregor in “Fargo,” and six Critics Choice Award wins, including Best Structured Reality Show for “Shark Tank” and Best Reality Competition Series for “The Voice.”

Other series produced by the studio include Burnett’s Survivor; “Vikings”; “Beat Shazam”; “Get Shorty,” “The Truth About Harry” (Epix); “Signed” (VH1); “Lucha Underground” (The El Rey Network).

Recently, the studio acquired Evolution Media, which produces “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” “Vanderpump Rules,” “Vanderpump Rules: Jax and Brittany Take Kentucky,” and “Sweet Home Oklahoma,” “Botched,” “Bug Juice,” and “Growing Up Supermodel.”