with Seth Arenstein Varsity Doesn’t Drag With the pressure on networks to find carriage, teen-targeted Varsity TV takes a slightly different slant-for now. Certainly, this independent net wants to be a full-fledged linear channel. At the moment it has a contract with NCTC, is carried on some Insight systems and can be found on Comcast’s VOD platform. There’s also a deal with Verizon’s FiOS TV. But carriage "is a little different for us in that linear is not our #1 platform as it relates to our audience…wireless and online are actually how our audience communicates with each other," CEO Kelly Hoffman says "It’s amazing, once a kid gets a cell phone at age 12, which in itself is amazing, it never leaves their side." That’s why Varsity is exploiting other platforms while it awaits a linear presence. It’s packaging 3rd party shows (mostly extreme sports, reality fare and music) with teen-produced content and making it available to wireless and online. And Varsity also has platforms to allow teens to engage in mobile blogging (blogging using a mobile device). But teen-produced content? Since incorporating in ’99, Varsity’s forged relationships with some 3K high schools, all of them in Top 100 cable markets, Hoffman says. This has yielded a video library of 3K hours of teen-produced shows. (We spent some time watching those shows on Varsity VOD. As you might expect, plenty of it dealt with music, with several shows consisting of a decently informed host interviewing rock bands. Interspersed were clips of the band playing, much of which was dark and nearly inaudible. Still, not bad and in the best cases it was on par with good local access shows, impressive for teen-produced material.) But wireless, Internet and VOD go just so far. The largest hurdle for Varsity is "trying to get traditional cable carriage when bandwidth is limited," Hoffman admits. "If we can get on that linear platform we can help cross-promote back to wireless and online…we can bring cable operators the local relationships they’re spending billions to create and we can deliver teens, who are the CTOs of the home. We can drive new services." That sounds fairly conventional. Highlights "Faith of My Fathers," Mon, 8pm, A&E. The story of Sen John McCain’s (R-AZ) nearly 2K days in a Hanoi POW camp is a rough watch, but it’s outstanding and perfect for Memorial Day. — "Hollywood Vietnam," Mon, 10pm, AMC. Ostensibly a doc about Vietnam-themed films (a few shown on AMC), but some interviews get very deep and rival the fabulous film clips. — "Biteforce," tonight, 10, Nat Geo. You won’t believe who’s got the strongest bite in the animal kingdom. OK, maybe you will. Worth a Look "Empire Falls," tomorrow & Sun, 9pm, HBO. Great cast (Paul Newman, Ed Harris, Helen Hunt), fabulous production, but the 6-hr drama about the depressed in a depressed town felt flat. — "Sports Kids Moms & Dads," Wed, 10pm, Bravo. Should be on Court TV. These parents need jail time. — "Julie Johnson," begins Wed, here! A gem about a woman’s (Lilli Taylor) mental and emotional liberation. Not Reviewed "Cinderella Man," Tues, 7pm ET, ESPN2. Doc about boxer James J. Braddock looks interesting. — "Scripps Natl Spelling Bee Finals," Thurs, 10am, 1pm ET, ESPN. A favorite. — "NAMIC Vision Awards," tomorrow, 6:30pm, Starz InBlack.

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