News

Plum New Gig

4/26/2008 2:00 AM Eastern

Plum TV, the resort-community network known for targeting the wealthiest of the wealthy, is adding a new talk show where connections expert Jennie Saunders mixes and matches guests that include former Microsoft chief technical officer Nathan Myhrvold, ex-National Football League running back Curtis Martin, prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel and blogging pundit Arianna Huffington.

“I think I'm the luckiest person on the planet — I get to meet extraordinary people every day and have conversations with them and, better yet, have relationships with them,” Saunders said, referring to lunch and dinner relationships and to her job as head of Core, a membership-based lifestyle company with real estate, travel and other service components, in addition to a private club in midtown Manhattan.

CLUB LEADER

When the Core Club opened three years ago in midtown Manhattan, an article in The New York Times called Saunders “in many ways an unlikely ringleader of a salon of the hyper-rich,” raised in suburban Westchester County, N.Y., trained as an attorney before becoming a luxury-club entrepreneur.

She'll executive produce and host Connections With Jennie Saunders, taped in her Hamptons and New York City homes starting next week before a June debut on Plum.

Other confirmed guests include Sony BMG Music chairman (and former NBC News chief) Andy Lack, Nielsen Business Media executive (and former Variety publisher) Gerry Byrne, fashion entrepreneur Lisa Perry and HarperCollins Worldwide Publishing CEO Jane Friedman.

“They're all amazing and this is just the first wave of guests,” Saunders enthused. “One morning's worth of calls. I can't wait to decide what I'm going to do with the second call.”

She said her show will differ from upscale interview shows hosted by Donny Deutsch, Michael Eisner and others partly by pairing two guests together. “More often than not it's an unlikely pairing,” she said.

Publisher Friedman will be a guest alongside Showtime Networks CEO Matt Blank; footballer Martin will be on with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia chairman Charles Koppelman; and Byrne will be on with Huffington.

“You might have read a lot about Arianna,” Saunders said, but her tack is to get Huffington into a conversation that touches on unexpected topics.

The first Connections show will be taped with French architect Nouvel, newly awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and Saunders's idea is to take him on a helicopter ride over Manhattan to provide commentary on what he sees.

The 30-minute show also will take a different approach to commercials, Saunders said. There'll be a pair of three-minute “lifestyle segments” each episode featuring a sponsor as a category expert, letting viewers in on tricks of the trade.

Plum TV CEO Chris Glowacki said his network's aim is to reflect its communities, places like the Hamptons; Aspen, Vail and Telluride, Colo.; Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, Mass., and Sun Valley, Idaho.

“One of the amazing things about the markets we cover is you get so many interesting people and so many interesting conversations,” Glowacki said. An earlier example was the show Open Exchange hosted by Loews Hotel CEO Jonathan Tisch, a program that migrated from Plum TV to CNBC.

Saunders, Glowacki said, “is the kind of person who finds herself in conversations with people like this all the time.”

ROLLING OUT

In late 2006, Glowacki helped secure $20 million in funding from Tom Freston, Nick Buoniconti, Jimmy Buffett and others that fueled Plum TV's expansion into Sun Valley and Miami Beach.

In Sun Valley, where it bought and reformatted a broadcast outlet, the area was suffering through wildfires when Plum launched in summer 2007 and, though not really a news channel, it ended up doing a lot of live updates on the fires. “We became a very important part of the news cycle,” the CEO said.

Connections With Jennie Saunders will originate once a week on Plum's Hamptons station and re-air throughout the network. It'll also be available on Plum TV.com, Joost.com and on cable video-on-demand outlets. Plum TV has cable carriage on Cablevision in New York and Comcast in New England and Colorado, and on Cox Communications in Idaho and Atlantic Broadband in Miami Beach.

September