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Sundance Channel Plans to Stream Films Online

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Sundance Channel plans to stream full-length feature films online in a partnership with two media companies, execs announced Wednesday. Details will be announced within the next two weeks for the project, which is expected to launch this fall. Sundance plans to share revenues with the filmmakers whose work it offers for digital download.

The network also announced a new integrated sponsorship model to debut in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival in January. Executive vp marketing, branded entertainment and sponsorship Kirk Ianowski, promoted Wednesday from senior vp marketing, said the model will take a "selective" approach to marketing and only use high-end brands appealing to what he characterizes as the more sophisticated Sundance audience.

"The fewer (brands), the better," Ianowski said, noting that this model will emphasize "deep, long-lasting relationships" between brands and the channel. "We're going to have to walk away from deals because they're not a good fit."

While specifics of the model will not be available for a few weeks, Ianowski mentioned that this approach will be a more "creative" way of marketing. Advertisers will work endorsements into story lines, produce vignettes to air before or after a show and build series from the ground up with a specific brand, such as Grey Goose vodka's partnership with "Iconoclasts." He also pointed to Miller Genuine Draft's sponsorship of the new documentary series "House of Boateng," in which fashion designer Ozwald Boateng visits the Miller brewery and creates a designer bottle.

"We're forced to be very creative," said Ianowski of marketing on Sundance. "Everything on the channel is specific to the network."

In addition, Sundance Channel is pre-licensing the U.S. television rights to 12 new documentary co-productions set to premiere between August and the end of 2008 in the weekly Docday programming slot. "Our involvement provides financing for these films, gives us creative input and allows them to get made," said executive vp programming and marketing Laura Michalchyshyn.

Upcoming docus include Philippa Kowarsky's Israeli army vet drug addiction chronicle "Flipping Out"; Leslie Woodhead's exploration of U.S. atheism, "Godless in America"; and Hilary Helstein's look at child Holocaust victims, "As Seen Through These Eyes."

The network also announced several new series premiering in the last half of 2006, including two June premieres: "Boateng" and "One Punk Under God," which documents Christian punk rocker Jay Bakker, the son of Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner. August will bring "The Hill," a new documentary series about Capitol Hill aides.

The channel also announced the acquisition of "The Nominees," an Australian mockumentary set to premiere in September, featuring comedian Chris Lilly playing five characters; and "Dust to Dust: The Health Effects of 9/11," a documentary produced by CBS News about rescue workers at Ground Zero who have fallen ill. The latter show will debut on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

On the slate for 2007 are three documentary series, including "Sin City Law," set in the Las Vegas District Attorney's office; "Pleasure for Sale," chronicling a Nevada town's legal brothel; and "Nimrod Nation," about a small town's obsession with its ne'er-do-well high school basketball team.


Alex Woodson and Gregg Goldstein write for The Hollywood Reporter.

For more news from The Hollywood Reporter, click here.

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