Eighteen months after its launch — and six years after parent Hubbard Media Group first announced the service — ReelzChannel, the movie highlights and news-based network, is picking up ground with distributors. ReelzChannel president Gary Thorne recently sat down with Multichannel News editors to talk about this new momentum.
MCN: Why did it take six years to launch ReelzChannel?
Gary Thorne: We wanted to wait to get on air until we got enough mass distribution, so we needed over 20 million subscribers to make the business plan work. We went on air with both the satellite providers, but also with deals with Time Warner [Cable], Comcast, Charter, Mediacom. So we have all the makings of building the brand as a mass-market, fully distributed brand.
MCN: Why are you able to gain distribution now, as opposed to just a few years ago?
GT: We knew we had to bring to market a different business plan. So ReelzChannel is built on a business plan where the license fee is zero … we keep all the ad inventory, so we control what goes on-air. There are no local avails for satellite or cable, so it’s a pretty straightforward deal. We also built into the brand a couple of hooks that we knew the operators would appreciate. One is at 15 after and 15 before the hour, we run … “what to watch” interstitials that are always about movies that are in the PPV/video-on-demand or premium windows. The second hook was that we put in servers at the headends that enable us to overlay our programming with information about what channel, time and place [viewers] can find those movies. It’s like the ultimate point of purchase.
MCN: How much original programming is the network developing?
GT: About 80% of our programming is original. We knew we would not be able to go into the market and acquire [movie-oriented] programming. We have about 130 hours a week of original programming. We have about 10 shows on air right now on a weekly basis that are original shows with our talent, our scripts.
MCN: Do you foresee a time when you’ll offer a high-definition feed of ReelzChannel?
GT: Yes. All we’re waiting for right now is some deployment in HD. As you know it’s all about spectrum — we’re fighting to get standard-definition carriage first. But one of the great advantages we have is that we have a four-month ramp up to HD, and because over 80% of our programming is original programming, once we change the lenses in the studio and the aspect ratios … we’re HD. We have our own studios in Los Angeles and when we built the studio we knew we would go to HD. All we need is the operators to give us the bandwidth.
MCN: Do you have a Web presence?
GT: Yes. We are a multimedia brand and we have a very robust broadband Web site (reelzchannel.com). We have about 1 million [unique visitors] a month now with the Web site, and it has all the utilities expected of a movie Web site, so you can find out movie times, and it can tell you what movies are playing on our cable system at any time of the day.