Despite Hiatus, NUE-TV Talks Tough

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Despite a production "hiatus," executives at start-up cable network NUE-TV said the company is not in danger of folding-and is holding serious discussions with potential investors interested in the urban-targeted service.
last week reported the basic-cable service was in the midst of a programming and business slowdown as it seeks additional investor support.

According to the story, NUE-TV-which launched last July, backed by music mogul Quincy Jones-has ceased production on all of its original programming and has even returned rented furniture and office equipment.

After a furious six months of activity-in which NUE-TV has launched the network, developed original programming and agressively acquired off-network sitcoms and movies-the network is taking a production break, president Robert Townsend acknowledged. The company had been producing original news and special features programming.

But Townsend vehemently disputed any inference that the network was preparing to close its doors. NUE-TV was on pace to meet its business projections and is moving forward aggressively, he quickly added.

He also confirmed talks with a number of potential "investors" interested in the concept of offering targeted programming to minority audiences, but would not name names. Townsend also would not reveal how much cash the network wants or needs, although industry sources have placed that figure at $50 million to $70 million.

Certainly, NUE-TV faces an uphill battle to gain access to subscribers in a very crowded field. The network has reached significant distribution deals with AT&T Broadband, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications Inc. that could put it before 13.5 million subscribers later this year.

Industry observers said NUE-TV's potential value was underscored by Viacom Inc.'s $3 billion purchase of Black Entertainment Television.

NUE-TV chairman Dennis Brownlee said recently that the Viacom-BET deal-as well as the Time Warner Inc.-America Online Inc. merger-spurred the interest of media companies looking to acquire niche-targeted content. Such companies are striving to provide consumers with a diverse and complete portfolio of television, Internet and interactive services, he said.

"A lot of companies are looking into partnerships with other companies in an effort to access targeted markets, and we're finding that there's an increased interest in reaching targeted audiences from all types of media," he said.