SBD/January 19, 2012/Media

Mark Cuban Partnering With Seacrest, AEG, CAA To Launch New Pop Culture Channel

Cuban said the channel plans to cover show business on a 24/7 live basis
Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, AEG and CAA are "teaming up to launch a new pop culture cable channel," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Called AXS, the net is "envisioned to focus primarily on live programming aimed at entertainment aficionados." The channel "plans to cover show business on a 24/7 live basis." Cuban said, "The industry in Los Angeles is a sport." The net's flagship show is to be called "AXS Live," which Cuban described as a "'SportsCenter' for pop culture and music." The joint venture will be "rebranding Cuban's HDNet channel, creating a new network that is expected to debut as soon as late spring." Currently in "about 27 million homes," Cuban said that he thinks having the "weight of AEG behind the channel will boost its reach." He added that it will "take about six months to change HDNet to AXS." Flint noted AXS "seems aimed at competing primarily with E!" (LATIMES.com, 1/18). Cuban said, "We’re going to be able to take what I had hoped to do with HDNet -- which was to be live, live, live -- and accelerate that considerably." Seacrest noted that "'music, live entertainment and live events' would be the base of the channel." Cuban would "not say whether he retained the majority ownership of HDNet." Execs said yesterday that AXS TV will take advantage of AEG's events and concert sites, "including the L.A. Live entertainment complex in Los Angeles and The O2 in London." Cuban said that some of the "existing programming on HDNet, including mixed martial arts matches and the newsmagazine 'Dan Rather Reports,' will remain in place on AXS TV" (NYTIMES.com, 1/18).

INSIDE ACCESS: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Melissa Grego noted production facilities at L.A. Live will "serve as a hub for much of the programming and most of the production will be based in Los Angeles." Cuban said that sales will be "based in Los Angeles and Dallas and operations will stay in Denver." AXS will "tap AEG assets to give viewers special inside access and perks like ticketing opportunities, premium seating, private viewing areas and food & beverage specials." Sports are "likely to maintain a place on the network -- particularly MMA, which has been a big part of HDNet." But as far as pursuing sports programming, AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke said that "'that is not the intention' and that the main idea is to pursue an 'underdeveloped' opportunity in live programming within the music and pop culture world" (BROADCASTINGANDCABLE.com, 1/18). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Lacey Rose cited a source as saying that the "venture between Cuban and the others is 'virtually' a 50-50 partnership" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/18). DAILY VARIETY's Andrew Wallenstein noted if they get it right, they will "forge a new variation in the business model of TV distribution." AXS will "look to position itself as an ESPN of pop culture," but E! and ESPN may "offer less of a comparison for AXS TV than MTV" (VARIETY.com, 1/18).
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