Anaheim, Calif. -- Fanfare: The Classical Music Channel
plans to launch Thanksgiving next year as a digital network and is looking to line up MSOs
as strategic partners, the network's prime financial backer, Jack Clifford, said last
In an unusual twist, the driving force behind Fanfare is
WETA, the public broadcasting TV station in Washington, D.C., whose president and CEO is
Sharon Percy Rockefeller. She said Fanfare will extend the mission of WETA, which has a
classical music public radio station called WETA-FM in Washington.
Fanfare, whose primary host will be Dick Cavett, will air
music videos, news and interviews. The "concept videos" feature individual
musical selections performed by celebrated artists, including Placido Domingo, Wynton
Marsalis, Gil Shaham and Kathleen Battle.
"It's sort of like the MTV of classical music,"
said Cavett, who attended the press conference announcing the ad-supported service at the
Western Cable Show.
Added Clifford, "We're not going to be a heavily
sweating white guy conducting on this channel."
Clifford, the former head of Colony Communications and a
founder of Food Network, said Fanfare needs to reach about 12 million homes in the next
three years to hit breakeven. But because the programming, music videos, is so
inexpensive, the network won't cost the typical $100 million to launch. Clifford, however,
wouldn't say how much it will cost to roll out the service.
Within five years Clifford predicted that Fanfare will be
in 25 million to 30 million homes.
Consultant Cathy Rasenberger, who is handling affiliate
sales for Fanfare, said incentives would be offered for launch, but wouldn't elaborate on
what they would be or on what the network's rate card will be. She and Clifford said they
are talking to the top 10 MSOs and the three direct-broadcast satellite providers about
Clifford, now president of Clifford Consulting in
Scottsdale, Ariz., and a group of investors are providing the initial financing for
Fanfare. But he said that in the coming months, he will approach other potential
investors, including cable operators, about Fanfare, adding that he's looking to them as
He claimed the timing is right for Fanfare because there
has been a crossover of classical artists that appeal to more mainstream audiences.
"There's been a tremendous change in attitude about
classical music," Clifford said.
He added that while there are arts-oriented services such
as Bravo and Ovation, no cable network now is dedicated to classical music 24 hours a day
like Fanfare will be.
WETA retained Frank N. Magid Associates in 1997 to conduct
a national study on the feasibility of launching an ad-supported classical music cable
network. More than half the respondents said they would "definitely" or
"probably" watch a 24-hour classical music channel.