New Network to Track Teens


Hoping to reach the elusive teenage viewer, a former MTV: Music Television and Nickelodeon executive has launched a 24-hour digital service targeting 12-to-18-year-olds.

VTV: Varsity Television will reach an audience not currently being served by other kids-oriented networks like Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, according to network president Joe Shults.

The service, which is currently carried on Comcast Corp.'s Headend In The Sky and just last week reached a distribution deal with the National Cable Television Cooperative, expects to be in 10 million homes by year-end. Shults, who ran MTV and Nickelodeon's West Coast office when those networks launched in the 1980s, said the network will be offered free to operators for several years before requiring a fee, although he would not disclose details.

He also said VTV could be offered as a cable-exclusive network, providing operators with a programming advantage over satellite providers.

Shults, however, would not reveal how much money the independently financed network is putting behind the service.

A significant gap exists for programming aimed at the 36 million teenagers that fall between Nickelodeon's niche 2-to-12 audience and the 18-to-24 set courted by such networks as MTV, UPN and The WB, he said.

Teens influence some $170 billion in spending each year, as advertisers know.

'Tween Nick-MTV

"Nobody is really speaking to the teen audience, and VTV hits the sweet spot between Nickelodeon and MTV," Shults said. "We celebrate those years through our programming."

To that end, the network will feature teen-oriented comedy, drama and reality series and films from such companies as ABC International, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., CTV Granada and Universal Television, according to Shults.

VTV will also air original videos and films created by teens themselves — including music videos and documentaries — as well as high school football games and other athletic championships.