It seems actor/producer Tyler Perry wants to follow Oprah Winfrey and take a shot at running a cable network.
Perry and movie studio Lionsgate are exploring the launch of a Perry-themed cable channel, according to the NY Times.
While Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer would not officially confirm launch plans for the proposed “Tyler TV” during the movie studio’s earnings conference call Wednesday (Aug. 10), he did say that Perry – star/producer of the Madea theatrical film series and producer of two successful comedy series on cable in TBS’ House Of Payne and Meet The Browns – has enough audience appeal and star power to deliver a successful 24-hour cable channel.
“We strongly support extending Tyler’s highly successful film, television and home entertainment brand into exciting new platforms,” Feltheimer said. “We think this is a rare piece of talent than can bring an audience anywhere.”
Executives for TBS, which this fall is launching a third Perry comedy series – For Better Or Worse — would not comment on a potential Perry-themed cable network.
Talk of a potential Tyler Perry network comes as Comcast continues the process of finalizing its plans to launch two African-American targeted networks over the next two years.
Comcast would not reveal specifics about its plans or the names of potential new networks. In a statement the company said:
“We received more than 100 high-quality proposals during our search for the first Hispanic and African American channels that we will launch as part of our commitment to launch 10 new independently owned and operated networks over the next eight years. Although it was not an easy task to narrow down the proposals, we have chosen several to participate in the next phase of our evaluation process, which will consist of more detailed business discussions in the coming months.”
Lionsgate’s Feltheimer said the proposed Perry network if launched could seek several distribution options, including looking at buying a channel that has a comparable audience, or a “conversion with a channel that we might already have.”
The network owns majority interest in TV Guide Channel, which is still looking to find its niche within a crowded field of general entertainment-based cable networks.
“I think Tyler is one of those rare resources that one could actually launch a channel with. I think we would have a lot of options if we choose to go down that path,” he said.
But in order to be successful, the channel’s programming arguably would have to extend beyond Perry’s sitcoms and movies. The Times report said the network – which would target African-American women — would look to buy third-party content that meshes with Perry’s “Christianity-tinged brand.”
That would pit it against Atlanta-based, independently-owned GMC, which offers its own brand of inspirational-themed programming. Last month during the Television Critics Association summer tour, GMC — formerly the Gospel Music Channel — announced it was stepping up its original programming plans by launching a monthly original movie package as well as quarterly TV specials featuring gospel-themed plays.
Lionsgate could look to merge with or buy GMC to create a solid Christian/inspirational-based independent network that would have 50-million subscribers to start. Feltheimer said during the earnings call that the studio could look at a “not fully distributed channel that we could buy,” but did not provide specifics.
GMC officials could not be reached for comment on the matter.
One way or another, it looks like cable audiences will get a healthy dose of Tyler Perry in the near future.