'The MP’ Takes a Multiplatform Tack

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Using ESPN Inc. as a business model, a Christian-music network plans to launch later this year with a multimedia strategy that includes creating a channel — as well as a magazine and a Web site and producing tours featuring the “inspirational” genre’s top performers.

The MP, for “Music Positive,” will feature Christian rock groups such as Switchfoot and contemporary gospel music, plus broader mainstream talent like Josh Groban and Clay Aiken, The MP Network Corp. CEO Larry Moore said.

“There won’t be any parental-warning labels on the music that we play,” he said.

The MP hopes to debut late in the fourth quarter and is in talks with cable and satellite distributors.

Based in Charlotte, N.C., The MP is pursuing the 18-to-34 demographic with a growing music genre that accounts for $1 billion in annual U.S. sales.

Initial programming will consist of music videos and concert footage supplied by record labels, but more original and co-produced programming will come later, as will acquired content.

“We have plans to put multiple camera crews on the road doing interviews across the country with other tour events,” Moore said. “We will do some original studio-type programming — everything from artist interviews to profiles to biographies.”

The Gospel Music Channel, headed by Discovery Networks U.S. veteran Charles Humbard, also is coming (in October), with a carriage deal with Cox Communications Inc.; and with three video-on-demand services — gospel rock, gospel soul and gospel concert — next year.

As a point of differentiation, Moore stressed his multimedia approach. He declined to comment on investors and financing, but said, “We feel that we’re adequately funded to take the product to market.”

The MP will produce two music tours next year, each hitting roughly 35 cities. The first will span March through June and the second September through October. “That’s one of our marketing tools for the network,” Moore said.

Also coming, in January: a four-color music and entertainment magazine, MPZ, available by subscription and sold at outlets such as Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Christian book stores.

The MP’s executive team also includes executive vice president of strategic planning Mike Mason, a veteran of ACN TV, TechTV, Disney Channel, the ABC Cable Networks Group and Home Box Office.

A revamped MP Web site on Oct. 15 will debut as a “viewer interactive” site with streaming video.

Moore thinks his multiplatform game plan will attract consumers and advertisers: “Advertisers today are looking for opportunities beyond the 30-second commercial. They’re looking for integrated marketing plans.”

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