Participant Media: New Cable Net to Focus on Millennials

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Watch out MTV, a new cable net focusing on Millennials is coming in summer '13. Participant Media is combining its newly purchased Documentary Channel and the distribution assets of Halogen it agreed to acquire from INSP to launch a new network targeting 18-34s, the company announced Mon. Evan Shapiro, who joined Participant in May after serving as pres of IFC and Sundance Channel, will head the new network. No affil deals have been announced, but Shapiro said during an interview that “we are well represented in the MVPD community” including cable ops, telcos and satellite providers. The services, once combined and rebranded, will reach an estimated 40+ mln subs. Shapiro said the company will announce the name of the network in March. In terms of programming, Participant's looking at all genres, including comedy, drama and unscripted, according to Shapiro. “As long as it meets our mission,” which is to tell stories that serve as catalysts for social change, and “taste of our audience…” The net will initially carry much acquired programming, Shapiro said, but “we will dedicate tremendous amount of resources to original programming.” CEO Jim Berk added that the company plans to accelerate the funding for original content, and Shapiro said it will be specifically designed for viewers that the pay TV ecosystem is “most at risk of losing.” The company picked the Documentary Channel and Halogen TV because the 2 nets offer “the best and most creative way to reach critical mass of distribution,” he said. “We looked at the landscape of what's available, and these two have absolute complementary distribution.” In addition, both channels touch on the content that Participant embraces–content that inspires social changes, according to Berk. “We want people to engage and empower… We know first-hand that this particular demo responds to high quality original content” that's not overly commercialized. He said Millennials demand content that's original, inspirational, provoking and entertaining. Meanwhile, Shapiro said “we can't be relevant with this demo” without integrated social media experience, meaning that “we will allow audiences to help create the channel.” The net could compete directly with nets like ABC Family and Viacom's MTVN. The difference is nets like MTV are lifestyle brands built around the pop culture, Shapiro said. “We build around hearts and souls of our audiences… We recognize that this audience wants to make a difference… We will be the ones that help them change the world.” The approach is building a sense of community, he said. Becky Henderson, founder and gm of Halogen TV, will continue to play a role at INSP.

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