Redford keeps Consultant Position


 

 

Viewers of the Sundance Channel who may have worried that the sensibility of its founder, Robert Redford, would be lost with its sale in mid-June to Cablevision, take note: Mr. Redford is staying on as a consultant.

On Thursday, in his first interview since he and his partners in Sundance, NBC Universal and Showtime, sold it to Cablevision for nearly $500 million, Mr. Redford said he was planning a series of short films for mobile phones under the Sundance Channel moniker; he will probably direct them and did not rule out appearing in them as well. Mr. Redford is also working with the new owner on efforts — stalled under his former partners, he said — to bring more documentaries to the cable channel, which specializes in independent films, and to make it available overseas.

“We’re going to construct an office for him, right near mine,” said Josh Sapan, president and chief executive of Rainbow Media, the Cablevision unit that will operate Sundance. “I don’t think he’s done yet.”

Mr. Redford, sounding very much engaged, said he was “interested in new technology” but “ultimately interested in whether we’re providing stories well told.”

Sitting alongside Mr. Redford at Sundance’s soon-to-be-former offices at Broadway and 50th Street (it is moving to Rainbow’s, at 11 Penn Plaza), Mr. Sapan said he had no plans to upend the programming lineup of the channel, which Mr. Redford founded in 1996 as an offshoot of his film festival in Park City, Utah. It reaches about 30 million homes.

Independent films, at least some drawn from the festival, will still be its core, Mr. Sapan said, along with original series like “Iconoclasts” (in which visionaries from seemingly unrelated worlds talk to one another), “Live From Abbey Road” (a music series) and the forthcoming “Architecture School” (about students competing to design a low-cost house in a devastated section of New Orleans).

Under Rainbow Media’s direction, Sundance Channel will also continue a block of programs dedicated to telling compelling stories about the environment, including “Big Ideas for a Small Planet,” which has showcased eco-friendly innovators and their projects.

For Cablevision, best known for its cable systems and its ownership of the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, the acquisition of Sundance is an attempt to give cachet and credibility to its constellation of channels, which, until recently, has been decidedly low-profile. Rainbow Media also oversees AMC — which last year introduced the series “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” both favorites of critics — and IFC, which has “independent film” as part of its name.

Mr. Sapan said he hoped each channel would have an individual identity, with IFC continuing to pursue younger male viewers with original series like “The Whitest Kids U’Know,” featuring a comedy troupe, and AMC seeking to mount television series with cinematic ambitions.

By JACQUES STEINBERG

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