Koplovitz Gets Real With Latest Startup Net


Looking to get another startup under her belt, USA Network founder Kay Koplovitz has joined the executive team that's launching Reality Central, which will serve up reality-genre hits along with original programming, officials said last week.

Koplovitz has been named chairman of Reality Central's board, and as such she will set strategy, raise money and form global partnerships for the new cable network.

The network, which claims to have carriage deals with two top 10 MSOs, has delayed its launch. Reality Central had been slated to debut in January, but now won't roll out until the middle of next year.

Koplovitz makes no bones about the fact that Reality Central co-founder Larry Namer, who started the network that evolved into E! Entertainment Television, will be the executive running the fledgling service on a daily basis. She will be offering Reality Central her help in broad areas, using her contacts and knowledge of not only cable, but venture capital.

"I've done a lot of work in venture and private equity since I left USA," Koplovitz said, adding that as far as cable programming, "it's a business I know. It's a fun business. I've done a lot of work with entrepreneurs and startups. I have a lot of expertise."

While Koplovitz won't name the operators with which Reality Central has reached distribution deals, the network has recruited more than 100 former reality-show contestants to do work for it, including Richard Hatch of the first Survivor.

She compared the public's enthusiasm for reality programming to the kind of devotion that fans have for a genre like science fiction, which helped drive the success of Sci Fi Channel, also part of her fiefdom at USA.

"They [reality shows] certainly have proven they have legs and sustaining power for the broadcast networks," Koplovitz said.

Another reality-programming channel from Europe, Reality TV, will get a jump on Reality Central when it kicks off its U.S. launch Dec. 12 on Dish Network. Last week, Reality TV announced it had lined up consulting firm HotHouse Media and the services of two of its executives — former Turner Broadcasting System Inc. veterans Doug Orr and Tully Bragg — to handle affiliate sales.

Reality TV's schedule will feature fact-based programming ranging from medical emergencies to police units and rescue teams from around the world. That's very different from what Reality Central is doing, according to Koplovitz.

"Reality Central is pop culture," she said. "The other channel is more like TLC."

Reality Central's delayed debut will give it time to forge more partnerships to support its launch, Koplovitz said. For example, the network is working on third-party marketing deals with several magazines, including the new Get Real, which premieres in January, as well as Stuff, In Touch, Soap Opera Digest
and Star.