Net2TV Sees More Than One Way To Launch a ‘Channel’ These Days

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The continued production of high-quality shows for the Web is slowly starting to change the definition of what a “channel” is. That idea’s already taking hold at YouTube, which offers dozens of niche streaming channels that are either free (ad-supported) or offered for a small monthly subscription fee.

Another company that’s on top of this trend is Net2TV, a startup founded last year that’s trying to take the idea to the next level by curating Web videos on a variety of topics; stitching them together into 30-minute “shows,” complete with hosts and three minutes of ad time; and then compiling those shows into hours-long programming blocks that, for all intents and purposes, look a lot like a live TV channel.

With a handful of channels already developed around such topics as news, cooking, entertainment and science, Net2TV has started off as an over-the-top service, called Portico, that runs as an app on Philips-made connected TVs and will soon be introduced on the Roku.

But Net2TV also envisions offering these “channels” to set-top boxes via cable operator deals. The resulting product “looks like a linear channel,” CEO Thomas Morgan told The Wire at last week’s Next TV Summit in San Francisco.

Morgan, who hails from Move Networks, BlackArrow and MTV/Nickelodeon, said Net2TV is close to landing a deal with a “top-five” U.S. cable operator that would deliver its content as a “new channel” on the set-top guide.

Another big difference is the carriage model. Net2TV isn’t looking for affiliate fees, but modeling everything on ad revenue. Thus, it will need an audience. The company acknowledged that its user base, still confined to the Philips universe, is small. But Morgan said Net2TV has deals on the way that would put its content in front of 20 million “screens” by year-end.

Once that happens, Net2TV will still face the non-trivial challenge of separating itself from the noise. While its imminent launch on Roku will give Net2TV access to a base of at least 5 million U.S. users, it will also be just one of 1,000-plus “channels” on the Roku lineup.

Happy 15th Anniversary To C-SPAN’s Book TV

C-SPAN on Sept. 12 celebrated 15 years of “Book TV,” CSPAN2’ s weekend programming block about nonfiction books.

Over that span, Book TV has featured about 9,000 authors and 40,000 hours worth of content featuring nonfiction authors, from the iconic to the up-and-coming, talking about their latest book, the craft of writing, and just about anything else.

The anniversary was noted last week by Mediabistro’s publishing blog, “GalleyCat,” which joined the celebration by posting the 10 most popular BookTV “In Depth” interviews. Only on a public-affairs network supported by your local cable operator could you get three uninterrupted hours with author/journalist Christopher Hitchens, who died in 2011 (No. 3 on the list).

Other hot video interviews were with Hitchens’ frequent combatant, Alexander Cockburn (No. 1); radio talk-show host Tammy Bruce (No. 2) and feminist academic Camille Paglia (No. 10).

If Wire readers have missed any of those 9,000 hours — not that we think they have — they are available, searchable by author or book, at booktv.org.

— John Eggerton

Birth of New Net, Pivot, Pleases a Parent, Shapiro

So far, so good, said Evan Shapiro, the president of Pivot, the six-week-old network aimed at millennials, assembled from Participant Media’s purchase of two other small cable channels.

“It’s going very well, better than I thought it would,” he told The Wire last Thursday (Sept. 12) at a preview party for Pivot’s two newest original series.

“To be honest with you, the response in the press has been beyond my wildest expectations,” Shapiro, the former head of IFC and Sundance Channel, continued. “To get a review of the entire network in the The New Yorker? And the reaction of fans has been really tremendous.”

That Sept. 16 New Yorker piece, by Emily Nussbaum, had mixed views of the two series that were previewed at the party and that launched this past weekend, docu-talk show Raising McCain, with Meghan McCain — who came to the party accompanied by her dad, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — and Jersey Strong, a documentary series set in Newark, N.J.

The Wire viewed three episodes of Jersey Strong — centered on two women, one a former gang member, the other her one-time lawyer, and their complicated lives, first seen on TV in Sundance Channel’s Brick City — and agreed with Nussbaum’s high opinion of it.

Overall, she wrote, Pivot shares much of the spontaneous quality of early MTV, a comparison Shapiro relished.

“You look at that first piece we put on the air, which was Video Killed the Radio Star,” Shapiro said, referring to a remade version of the video that was the first one shown on MTV in 1981. “That’s who we are. It’s you and us together in this.”

Pivot especially with its live show, TakePart Live, is designed to tell millennials: “we’re going to be working this out while you’re watching, and that’s what they really enjoy,” he said.

— Kent Gibbons

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