Executives with Reality Central, which has already secured several deals with MSOs, said they’re nearing other pacts that will put the fledgling service before 5 million to 7 million homes at launch early next year.
President and CEO Larry Namer said the service expects to have deals with five of the top 10 MSOs when it bows in 2005.
“We had a series of discussions with all of the top MSOs, and all but one recognizes the value of this genre,” said Namer, noting that serious progress has been made with a trio of top-10 operators. “The lawyers, at this point, are doing what they get paid for.”
Reality Central has already inked deals with Insight Communications Co., Mediacom Communications Corp. and the Caribbean Cable Cooperative, a consortium of more than 50 cable systems in the Caribbean and Atlantic Basin serving some 350,000 subscribers.
Namer said the network — which will offer original and acquired reality content and programming from both the United States and abroad on a 24/7 basis, as well as through video-on-demand, broadband, cellphones and other applications — will rely heavily on advertising during its early years.
Reality Central is being offering free-of-charge to operators that carry it at launch, according to Namer, who founded Movietime, the predecessor to E! Entertainment Television. The network is charging unspecified license fees on a sliding scale for those that distribute the service thereafter.
Reality Central chairman Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Networks, said the genre has really come a long way since the network announced its launch plans a year ago: Seven of broadcast’s 15 top shows this past season were of the genre.
Blake Mycoskie — co-founder, chief operating officer and previously a contestant on CBS’s The Amazing Race — said reality fare holds vast appeal among adults 18 to 34 who have grown up on such reality staples as MTV: Music Television’s The Real World. He also said this group embraces the various media that Reality Central will tap.
Officials noted that the network will offer a daily news-and-gossip VOD component free to operators this fall as a means to create viewer interest in advance of the linear launch. A more substantial subscription on-demand application is also being developed.
The network also plans to prime the promotional pump via additional appearances from the 150 reality stars it has signed to contracts, as well as through daily programming and specials created for United Stations Radio Networks.
Reality Central has also formed a strategic alliance with The William Morris Agency to forge charter sponsorship and programming relationships. The agency is working to enable the network to be on-site during the filming of shows from the genre and help it secure future rights.
In addition to creating its own shows and importing reality fare from around the globe, Reality Central continues to negotiate with the producers of Survivor, Big Brother and The Apprentice. Their plan is to present enhanced versions of these shows, featuring analysis and other explanatory commentary from former show contestants.
Elsewhere in the genre, another aspiring network, The America Channel, has launched an Internet audio service to help promote its upcoming video play. The America Radio Channel is available Fridays at noon (ET) on the network’s Web site (www.americachannel.us) and on World Talk Radio (www.worldtalkradio.com). The linear cable network is expected to launch late this year.
Hosts for the one-hour radio show include acclaimed journalist Mary Alice Williams and entertainment personality Shawn Southwick-King. Other on-air contributors include America Channel chairman and CEO Doron Gorshein and Pantelis Michalopoulos of Washington, D.C.-based law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP, who is also serving as the network’s counsel for government affairs.
Topics will include current events, human-interest segments, profiles of ordinary heroes, trends in TV content, legislative matters and a kids’ forum. Guests will include cable and satellite executives, TAC television production partners, local American personalities and legislators.