Local Programmers Try Offbeat Ideas


New Orleans-Several cable executives last week described the offbeat approaches they are taking for local programming, which range from a Denver channel that caters to people of color to an interactive sports-talk show that shows live footage of fans via Webcams.

"My thesis is that there is a new frontier.and that frontier is local programming," said Greg Moyer, president of regional programming for Rainbow Media Holdings Inc.

Moyer moderated a panel called "If I Can Make It There, I Can Make It Anywhere: Innovative Local Programming" at the National Show here last week.

Panelist David Woodman, general manager of Fox Sports New England, described the format for his network's interactive live talk show, Gameface. Using e-mailed videos and video cameras at kiosks in sports bars, Gameface allows fans to interact about sports, live and on-screen, with hosts on the TV show.

"It creates whole new areas of local programming," Woodman said. He added that while the show doesn't garner big ratings, it helps build viewer loyalty. The cost of producing the show is low, he added.

Tracy Jenkins, vice president and general manager of Colours, said her network aims to provide public-affairs information and entertainment to people of color-African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans-in Denver.

Colours-which is being created by Black Star Communications with some seed money from AT & T Corp.-aims to be "multicultural and multiethnic," said Jenkins, who most recently did a stint at Fox Family Channel. Colours is launching in August, she added.

Colours is using PBS as a model in terms of turning to corporate sponsors for funding, Jenkins said. "This is sort of a new model for us for community television," he added.

Moyer kicked off the session by describing how his company and its parent, Cablevision Systems Corp., pioneered the regional-news-channel concept when it created News 12 Long Island in 1985. Now, Rainbow also has three regional information and entertainment networks running in the New York metropolitan area, the Metro Channels.

The two other panelists described the services they are offering to cable operators. Marc Hertz, founder of Cable NetWorkz and a veteran of Time Warner Inc., provides local content for Web sites operated by cable systems. Hertz said cable operators, luring people in with compelling local content, can generate both ad sales and electronic-commerce opportunities off their sites.

According to president and CEO Roger Keating, San Francisco-based Zatso Inc. is now working with the cable industry-including News 12, ZDTV and Courtroom Television Network-to offer personally tailored newscasts to viewers via the Web.

It's an application that can spur subscribers to buy high-speed cable modems, said Keating, a veteran of Comcast Corp.