Situations Wanted for Employment Net

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Bob Townsend has a new job, following his departure several months ago from the gone-dark New Urban Entertainment TV channel.

His new line of work: A diginet hopeful called The Employment Channel, to debut in January 2004.

Townsend, whose cable resumé includes roles at Home Shopping Network and Bell Atlantic Video Services, is trying to raise $25 million to get Employment off the ground.

The channel would combine news and information on workplace issues and jobs with relevant movies and reruns, along the lines of Norma Rae, L.A. Law
and Alice.

"If I get this channel on, and I will be doing so, it could be as big as Discovery [Channel] or [Home Box Office] or [Black Entertainment Television]," declared Broderick Byers, Townsend's partner as Employment Channel's founder and CEO. "We've got a unique product that helps people get jobs — a channel you want to use, not just watch."

Added Townsend, "I see a real opportunity here — a truly new idea that fills a vertical market and uses convergence." He would become the channel's COO after the funding is raised.

"We can fashion a model like Court TV or The History Channel to make it go," said Townsend.

For now, Byers is wrapping up a contract with a public-TV station to launch America Works, a weekly series that would become the cable service's nightly signature show.

His company already produces Employ.Com NY
and NJ Works, carried by public broadcasters WNET in New York and New Jersey Network, with replays running on various local cable channels.

He launched the public-TV series in 1996 and a Web site (www.employ.com) one year later, building up 3,000 hours of programming.

The Employment Channel could also help highlight new cable-industry ventures, and positions that might be available within them.

"It could be as self-serving to the business as C-SPAN is, by creating a talent database or promoting diversity," Byers said. "The local cable systems benefit by inserting their own job listings and new service-news."

Employment would start as a four-hour programming block repeated six times, before growing to 12 hours. Revenue would come from advertising, underwriting for some material and a license fee to start at 5 cents per subscriber.

Affiliates would receive three ad minutes per hour, plus 30 minutes a day for local employment shows.

Employment aims for clearances that would cover 6.7 million digital subscribers in the first year, rising to 24 million digital subscribers in five years. Backers hope to hit break-even within two years.

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