Smithsonian Institution: Additional Information Should Be Developed and Provided to Filmmakers on the Impact of the Showtime Contract Page: 5 of 55
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Accountability * Integrity * Reliability
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548
December 15, 2006
The Honorable Charles H. Taylor
The Honorable Norman D. Dicks
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives
On December 22, 2005, the Smithsonian Institution (Smithsonian) entered
into a 30-year contract with Showtime Networks Inc., (Showtime) to form
a limited liability company that would create new television channels and
related businesses, the first of which is intended to be a digital on-demand
channel called Smithsonian on Demand. The new on-demand channel will
feature, among other things, programs developed using Smithsonian
content, including the Smithsonian's vast archives, collections, and
experts. Smithsonian Networks (the new venture) is a new independent
joint venture between the Smithsonian and Showtime, and it was created
to develop, launch, and operate the new channel.' After the public
announcement of the contract in March 2006, filmmakers, historians,
archivists, librarians, and others began raising issues about the potential
effects of the contract on the public's continued access to and use of the
Smithsonian's collections. These interested parties and some in Congress
have also questioned the confidential nature of the contract and the
process by which Smithsonian officials solicited and negotiated the
contract. Smithsonian officials stated that they were surprised by the
reaction to the contract. The Smithsonian believes that keeping contract
provisions confidential is necessary to prevent the disclosure of
proprietary business information. Furthermore, officials believe that the
1The creation and operation of the new venture is memorialized primarily in four separate
agreements: (1) an agreement between the Smithsonian and Showtime to create a limited
liability company that will, among other things, create a new digital on-demand television
channel called Smithsonian on Demand; (2) a licensing agreement from the Smithsonian to
the new venture for the use of Smithsonian content and Smithsonian trademarks; (3) an
agreement between the Smithsonian and the new venture that governs the new venture's
access to Smithsonian content; and (4) a management agreement between Showtime and
the new venture for the management of the new venture. We will refer to these four
separate agreements collectively as the contract for purposes of this report. In the contract,
the legal name of the new venture is SNI/SI Networks L.L.C.
GAO-07-275 Smithsonian's Contract with Showtime
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Smithsonian Institution: Additional Information Should Be Developed and Provided to Filmmakers on the Impact of the Showtime Contract, report, December 15, 2006; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc298598/m1/5/: accessed May 25, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.