Building A Cable Net Devoted To a Popular Cause: Education

American Education Television Network Launches on Verizon FiOS VOD
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A labor of love for three cable-programming veterans — a cable network focused on education — has taken a step toward its goal by launching video-on-demand programs on Verizon Communications’s FiOS TV.

American Education Television Network (American ED TV), nearly three years in the works, is the brainchild of former sports-network distribution executive Matt Cacciato and two former Court TV colleagues, producer Fred Cambria and on-air anchor Jack Ford.

“What we aspire to be is sort of the ESPN of the education world,” Ford, a legal analyst for CBS News, told The Wire. “We’re going to tell all the important stories, and we’ll do all the important features, and we’ll have a lot of the educational news you can use.”

Short-form features now in FiOS’s News & Info VOD folder include programs ranking colleges by their entrepreneurial degree programs, by “green” curricula and by how students rank their professors. They’re hosted by Ford and Rob Franek, publisher of The Princeton Review, and filmed on the campus of Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y.

Future topics will include STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, test preparation and educational technology.

“FiOS TV subscribers have wide viewing interests for live and on-demand video content,” Michelle Webb, executive director of video content and strategy at Verizon, said in a statement. “The addition of American ED TV to our video on demand library enhances the content consumers can access to learn more about education and at a time that is convenient to their schedule.”

Cacciato, a longtime YES Network executive before moving full-time to the new enterprise, said the model initially relies on sponsors and advertisers. The charter sponsor is Columbus, Ohio-based science and technology research firm Battelle, and video-on-demand technology provider Vubiquity is a strategic partner.

Ford, a former trial attorney who teaches law at Yale University and New York University, said the FiOS features will show that American ED TV is going to be entertaining to watch, and not a tutorial for teachers.

When the network reaches full-time status, shows might also include reality series. One in the works already is about “the great drama” parents and kids engage in by visiting campus after campus in the hunt for a college to attend, he said.

Joe Covey, CEO of the Mag Rack how-to VOD service, offered to provide American ED TV videos with a launch pad before the network struck its own carriage deal with FiOS.

He called education an underserved category on TV and predicted viewers will find the network, despite the usual challenges posed by navigating through operators’ guides to find VOD fare. FiOS has one of the better navigation systems, he added.

Cacciato pointed out that many media and telecommunications companies, including multichannel distributors, have longstanding public commitments to support education.

“At the end of the day, nobody’s going to criticize you for putting more programming on that’s focused on education,” Cacciato said.

Flag-Waving in Style At Great American Country

Capping a transition two years in the making, Great American Country on Oct. 1 will unfurl a new brand identity and logo, inspired by the U.S. flag.

The shift from the shorter GAC and toward a broader programming palette reflects “country” as a noun that accents America, rather than an adjective pointing to a particular kind of music.

Country music will remain a key programming component, but the Scripps Networks Interactive outlet will continue to evolve from music videos to longer-form fare, plus lifestyle series and specials about family, home, food and travel.

The 63 million-home network will also become available in high-definition format, starting in the fourth quarter and rolling out over the next year.

“This has been a two-year process from a programming perspective,” Great American Country senior vice president and general manager Sarah Trahern told The Wire, observing that music videos can be found in many places online.

“We started moving toward more of a lifestyle service with [the tagline] ‘Living Country’ a year ago, and are continuing to broaden our mix.”

A third season of Farm Kings, about a Pennsylania family earning a living off the land and extolling local agriculture, bows on Dec. 19.

Also coming up are new seasons of Kimberly’s Simply Southern, showcasing the sensibilities of Kimberly Schlapman, of the band Little Big Town, and Celebrity Motor Homes, originally seen on HGTV.

Los Angelesbased Big Block Design Group worked on the new branding campaign. The broad “Anthem” promo, played against the audio accompaniment of Langhorne Slim & The Law’s “The Way We Move,” showcases backyard sports scenes; people playing guitar and banjo on bales of hay; landscape vistas and views from the back of a motorcycle; firework displays; carnival kewpie dolls; pumpkins and Halloween costumes; and barbecues and pies coming out of the oven.

Images and music complement the phrases “Great American Tradition,” “Great American Flavor,” “Great American Rivalry,” “Great American Roadtrip,” and “Great American Life.”

Spots will air on the channel and on distributors’ cross-channel avails and “social media things,” Trahern said.

— Mike Reynolds

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