NuvoTV, the English-language cable channel where Lopez is a minority owner and serves as the network’s chief creative offer, has reached an agreement with Fuse owner, the Madison Square Garden Company. “Things are in that 99.9 percentile,” says a source familiar with the negotiations, which began when NuvoTV reportedly offered cash and equity valued at more than $200 million.
“It’s getting done,” says another source familiar with the situation.
The first source declined to discuss where NuvoTV and Lopez are getting their financing, or whether they sweetened their deal since Combs, backed by billionaire supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, had reportedly made a similar $200 million offer.
A spokeswoman for Combs referred Billboard to Madison Square Garden Company spokeswoman Kimberly Kerns, who responds: “As we have stated, we are exploring strategic alternatives for Fuse and will have no further comment.”
The assumption in the industry that Lopez and Combs, who owns the fledgling Revolt TV cable channel in partnership with Comcast, were interested in acquiring Fuse to convert the struggling network to their respective programming formats and gain access to Fuse’s 74 million cable households. (NuvoTV and Revolt reportedly reach in the neighborhood of 34 million households.)
But in an interview that took place on earlier this week, before the deal was reached, Lopez’s manager Benny Medina, in a conversation about JLo’s entrepreneurial branding strategy, said that if NuvoTV emerged the victor, there were no immediate plans to change Fuse’s format. “We do look at these channels as two different companies with two different identities, audiences and goals,” Medina said. “And these shall remain intact.”
The plan to maintain Fuse’s format for the time being may have to do with something called a “definition of service” clause that cable operators can include in their contracts with the services they carry.
According to one cable television-industry source, the clause enables operators to drop a network or decrease the fees paid for carriage if the network’s ownership or programming format changes. This could prove to be a synergistic stumbling block given that Fuse’s music-video heavy programming does not bear much resemblance to NuvoTV’s largely non-musical slate of programs, which include reruns of “Dexter” and the new boxing reality show “Knockout.”
Asked if Lopez and Combs’ competing bids for Fuse was a coincidence or a residual effect of their two-year affair that began in 1999– Combs once likened his tumultuous relationship with Lopez to Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner’s romance – Medina replied, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” but added that it had nothing to do with their past history.
“In many ways, Jennifer and Sean are cut from the same cloth,” Medina said. They’re both passionate artists of the same generation who think on a grand and global scale. They were two superstars seeking to build their brand, who happened to be Jennifer and Puffy.” (They're also both 44 years old.)
He says that Lopez’s transition from the recording studio to the boardroom of NuvoTV “is a conscious move” and part of a larger strategy to build businesses around her that can sustain a lot of what she does as an entertainer and actor.” In addition to her music and acting career, Lopez sells her Jennifer Lopez fashion line through the Kohl’s department store chain and collaborates with Coty on a number of fragrances.
“We’re in an age and time now where artists have to be a lot more involved, invested and creative in marketing and promoting themselves, whether its fashion brands and fragrances that speak to who they are --or a cable TV network. It’s about building a business around the art.”
Despite Lopez's evolution as an entrepreneur, Medina says her recording career has not taken a backseat. "She is working on her 10th album," he says. "Her first love is music."