Cuban Eyes Multiformats

Nov 22, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The conventional wisdom on Mark Cuban is that with HDNet and HDNet Movies, he is hanging his hat on format. But Mr. Cuban isn’t a conventional guy.

The always colorful owner of the two all-HD channels, HDNet, HDNet Movies, who somehow finds a way to respond to most of the 1,000 e-mails he gets each day, made a name for himself in the entertainment world when he sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion in 2000. Since then he has amassed a stable of entertainment horses, including HDNet Films, which produces original movies in HD, and Magnolia Pictures, Rysher Entertainment, Landmark Theaters, 2929 Entertainment and the Dallas Mavericks basketball team.

Because his risk is distributed across several vertically integrated companies, he’s well positioned to create and own content with long-term value.

That portfolio is why Mr. Cuban has been able to begin the evolution of HDNet from an eye-candy channel to one that eventually could be established as the first high-definition general entertainment network.

Introduced in 2001, HDNet has changed over the past year to include more original content, such as National Hockey League games, news programming, concerts, Hollywood coverage and the celebrity interview show “Face 2 Face With Roy Firestone.” HDNet programs at least 20 hours per week of original content.

As for sister network HDNet Movies, Mr. Cuban said he wants to change the Hollywood model to have day and date film release in theaters, on his channel and on HD-DVD. His ownership of the Landmark Theater chain would facilitate that process.

“We didn’t want to be just another movie channel,” he said. “With HDNet Films, HDNet Movies and Magnolia Pictures working together, we could create great movies, have them distributed theatrically on a national basis and premiere them simultaneously in theaters and on HDNet Movies.”

HDNet gets some of its programming through deals with heavyweights such as Paramount for many of its CBS shows, and with Warner Bros., Sony, MGM, New Line, Miramax and others for movies. Mr. Cuban can also supply HDNet through his other businesses.

“When people say we are built around technology, they just aren’t paying attention. People consume entertainment. We want to give it to them in the best possible way,” he said.

Mr. Cuban owns his entertainment companies, excluding the Mavericks, with business partner Todd Wagner. Mr. Cuban said all his businesses are profitable now, except for HDNet and HDNet movies, which he said should reach profitability within three years.

“Mark is and has been an incredible industry evangelist for HDTV,” said Clint Stinchcomb, senior VP and general manager for Discovery HD Theater and VOD. “He’s done wonders promoting HD to the masses, raising awareness and demystifying what HD is all about.”