Baby boomers were the first generation raised on the boob tube, and they hold dear the classic series that still permeate their pop culture lexicon. But after serving a steady diet of The Honeymooners, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Combat! and other retro fare, the boomer-centric network formerly called GoodLife TV last year decided to head back to the future. "We realized we needed to balance between classic television and shows about things happening today in the baby boomer’s life," says network president/COO Larry Meli. The result has been a boom in lifestyle programs about scenarios relevant to 40- and 50-somethings: growing children, aging parents, changing metabolisms and dispersing finances. While couch classics still loom large—the lineup still includes classic Westerns, soldier stories, detective series and comedies—the network now airs 40% original programming. New shows tend to emphasize a uniquely boomer perspective, so popular series Fixing Dinner is as much about quality family time as what’s on the menu. The upcoming Til Debt Do U$ Part is equal parts money and marital management. With the expanded content came a name change to AmericanLife TV Network, a moniker that’s less a political statement than a cultural touch point, notes Meli. The independent network, which is not rated by Nielsen Media Research, also exudes renewed vigor in its quest to bolster subscriber numbers over the current 10 million and woo operators. "Yes, there are plenty of networks that can take you to the French Open or the Super Bowl because of their affiliations," Meli says. "But we’re taking the things we have access to and putting together some rather unique and special events for our operator affiliates." COOKING WITH GAS IN MANHATTAN A case in point is the welcome mat the network unrolled in April for its largest affiliate, Time Warner Cable’s New York City system. Capitalizing on contacts from its show Italian Cooking & Living, AmericanLife hosted a gourmet cooking class and seven-course dinner for Time Warner employees at Manhattan’s Italian Cooking Institute. The following week, it orchestrated a similar evening, but with a twist that would make any customer-minded operator salivate. Time Warner was given the opportunity to invite local subscribers of Italian-language network RAI International. "It was a stunning evening," says Harriet Novet, VP of public affairs, Time Warner Cable of New York and New Jersey. "They raised the bar in connecting us with our customers and changed the way we look at this network. That event was probably relatively low budget, but it was a standout for us. We don’t see enough of this." AmericanLife also recently threw a dinner and private tour for its Cox Northern Virginia affiliates at the Embassy of Finland. Again parlaying relationships—this time from its popular culture and cuisine series Embassy Chefs—into opportunities, it created a warm, personal event money can’t buy. The soiree the network hosted at the O Mansion in May during the American Cable Association’s 13th annual Washington Summit brought out the likes of NCTA’s Kyle McSlarrow and NCTC’s Jeff Abbas. Between touring the eccentric property, dinner and a dessert bar "to die for," according to ACA VP/COO Robert Shema, network execs slipped in a promo reel of its new quarterly series Moments That Changed Us, which features, among others, Walter Cronkite and former U.S. senator John Glenn. "They are smart about their promotional opportunities," Shema says. "Not only was that a fun and interesting event, but they had the chance to showcase their programming before some massive decision makers in the cable industry. For networks that don’t have deep pockets or aren’t part of a multimedia conglomerate, this is a great way to get exposure." AmericanLife is driven to enlighten MSOs about the viability not only of its own content but of its boomer audience. After all, this is a segment that controls 70% of the country’s financial assets and has $2 trillion to spend each year, according to network research. It’s not uncommon for execs to probe potential operator affiliates about what they’re offering boomers—a prime target for the bundled services on which cable is betting its own future. "They’re a retail business like any other selling clothing or food, and we challenge [operators] on how they’re going to stay relevant to this emerging economic force," says Richard Freedman, SVP of affiliate sales and marketing. "Most operators acknowledge that this is a robust demographic, and by their own admission feel they aren’t doing enough to attract new telephone customers from it." Freedman says in many cases operators could score double with boomer customers who are also selecting and financing their grown children’s home entertainment and phone services. AN INDIE FACES THE BRICK WALL Yet for all AmericanLife’s gusto, the road remains tough for an independent channel in world dominated by media giants. "It’s still just hard for the indie networks," Shema says. "We just saw a case where AmericanLife highlights their programming, they have the `wow factor’ with operators, and they still may not get [carriage] because the next five channels are committed to the big guys in carriage deals. They still hit a brick wall." The ever-optimistic AmericanLife TV sees some cracks in the mortar. "Madison Avenue is like a tanker—it takes a long time to come about," Meli says. "But you watch TV and half the commercials have baby boomer music and references…We’ve been received exceptionally well by cable; I think they’re getting our message." AmericanLife TV At a Glance Launch Date: 1985
Ownership: Crown Communications Inc.
Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
Subscribers: 10 million
Management: Larry Meli, president/COO; Richard Freedman, SVP, affiliate sales and marketing; Darlene Chapman-Holmes, VP, marketing; Mark Ringwald, VP, programming.

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The FCC adopted a NPRM seeking comment on how to maximize efficient use of the 500MHz of mid-band spectrum available in the 12.2-12.7GHz band. The hope of the proceeding is to further a conversation as to

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