Net Goes Local in L.A.

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Local Television Network Inc., trying to attract hip young adults in Los Angeles with local programming, will debut this fall as a program block carried by distributors reaching 3.7 million homes in Southern California, officials said last week.

LTN launches Oct. 3 as nightly block from 8 p.m. to midnight on KVMD, a must-carry station that has distribution via Adelphia Communications Corp., Charter Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp., DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network.

MIGHT OFFER VOD

LTN is also in talks about providing some operators, such as Adelphia, with content for video on demand.

The youth-targeted service, aimed at viewers 18 to 34, is being spearheaded by Justin Mahy, a former investment banker for Lehman Bros., and is being programmed by Greg Brannan, the former executive vice president of programming for E! Networks.

Brannan, LTN’s head of programming and production, has nine original series in the works for the new service.

Mahy, a native of New Zealand, said he has lived around the world, in cities such as in London, Toronto and Hong Kong. In the states, he said he finds it “fairly extraordinary” that there’s not much local TV programming here.

“There really is a dearth of local programming here,” he said. “What also struck me is that is that there is basically no local programming for 18 to 34.

“And who cares more about what the latest fashion is and where to get that fashion for a bargain; who cares more about what are we going to do this weekend in terms of local road trips; who cares more about the coolest bars and clubs and restaurants in the city? It struck me that no one cares more about what is going on in their city than young people, and yet there is zero local programming for them.”

That’s where Mahy thinks the opportunity is for LTN, which will also have a Web site.

LTN has negotiated a long-term, irrevocable carriage deal with KVMD, a Joshua Tree, Calif., station that has must-carry status in the Los Angeles DMA. LTN will reach Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernadino, Riverside and Orange counties through the station, which focuses on local sports programming.

The station’s existing carriage arrangements puts LTN in close to 75% of the Los Angeles DMA, according to Mahy. But KVMD and LTN are also taking to cable systems about expanding the station’s distribution. For example, only about 20,000 Comcast subscribers are getting the station now, Mahy said.

To help sweeten the deal, LTN is interested in providing on-demand content to operators. “We’re talking to the cable systems about providing them with free VOD,” Mahy said.

SHOWS ON TAP

The lineup for LTN’s program block will include: Rough Cut L.A., a daily show featuring Hollywood movers and shakers; City Vibe, offering Los Angeles bands and clubs; Belle du Jour, a guide to the Southern California fashion scene; Night Guide, a calendar of activities; Red Light, about the local subculture; Ballin’, black-top basketball from urban L.A.; Dialed In, action sports from surfing to skateboarding; Local Explorer, road trips for Angelinos; and L.A. Flavor, a lifestyle show covering topics like home decor and food.

While LTN’s block, from 8 p.m. to midnight, “is when the vast majority of 18-to-34 year olds are watching television,” the service would like to expand its hours and has discussed that with KVMD. “Clearly, we’re interested in expanding it to the midnight ’til 2 a.m. time period and also, from a revenue perspective, it makes sense for us expand in the 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. time period as well,” Mahy said. “But right now, we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew.”

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