VOD Nets Spin Gospel Tunes

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Looking to appeal to music-loving cable companies, upstart Gospel Music Channel will offer three distinct video-on-demand services featuring various gospel music styles.

The three services, featuring gospel rock, gospel soul and gospel concerts, will be offered in conjunction with the linear network, which is expected to launch Oct. 30, Gospel Music Channel CEO Charles Humbard said.

The three VOD strands, set to debut in January 2005, will initially offer six to eight hours of programming that will be frequently refreshed.

MORE GENRES DUE

Humbard said the network is also looking to develop a VOD brand for the country and Southern and contemporary hits genres.

Branding the on-demand services by a specific genre allows for greater marketing and promotion opportunities on the linear TV channel.

“We’ve chosen popular areas of gospel music that will attract viewers,” he said. “If you’re watching a concert on the Gospel Channel it allows us to say, 'Go to [the Gospel VOD service] on VOD.’ It promotes people who are watching a particular genre or style of music directly to that style of music on demand.”

Humbard said operators will not be able launch the VOD channels without carrying the linear service, but systems can choose to carry one, two or all three of the channels.

“These channels are there for them to augment as they see fit in a given market,” he said. “But without the marketing and promotion from the linear channel, the VOD brands would be lost in a sea of [VOD offerings] because the awareness won’t be there for the consumer.”

The network currently has a carriage agreement with Cox Communications Inc., but it’s unclear how many of the MSO’s systems will offer the VOD services.

Humbard said the network is in conversations with all the major MSOs and hopes to be in front of 500,000 subscribers at launch.

BANDS ON DEMAND

To further promote the network and its VOD offerings, Humbard said Gospel Channel will offer operators VOD programming featuring local bands to air on systems. He said the network is working with technology partners to deliver local programming directly to cable systems along with programming for a national audience.

“It’s a fabulous and very effective tool to provide operators the ability to have local content,” Humbard said. “It’s a way to both service the local community and the operators needs and for us to find great emerging talent by testing it a local market first.”

Humbard is a former senior vice president and general manager at Discovery Networks U.S. Gospel is backed by private-equity firms Alpine Equity Partners LP and Constellation Ventures.

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