News Column

Networks Look to Younger Viewers, Hispanics for Edge

January 13, 2014

USA Today

Pivot is turning to Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levittis ready to hit "record" on a passion project for TV. The movie star (Don Jon) and former child actor is producer and host of HitRecord on TV (premiering Saturday, 10 p.m. ET/PT), a variety-show spinoff of his 8-year-old Web collaborative that collects and curates short films, animation and music. It's one of the new programs on Pivot, a cable network aimed at 18- to 34-year-olds and launched in August by Participant Media, the company behind films such as The Help and Lincoln.

"This show is a lot of wish fulfillment for me," Gordon-Levitt said in an interview Saturday, adding that the project was "pretty much all I did in 2013." He started the website with his brother in 2005 when, after taking a break from acting to go to college, he couldn't find work. The title was "a turn of phrase I came up with to encourage myself to get going." And the site "slowly blossomed into this community that started making stuff over the years."

Each episode of the eight-part series, which was renewed for a second season, has a theme and includes material from a worldwide community of 300,000 fans that Gordon-Levitt solicits, selects from online feedback and "my own personal take," and pays for. On TV, that means 426 contributors to the first episode will share $50,000.

A film in response to requests for "my first time" in the premiere episode (on YouTube) was based on "a young woman's story. (She) grew up with (an) eye condition, and she was never able to see the stars," Gordon-Levitt says. "Her dad bought her night-vision goggles from a Russian military surplus catalog, and she saw the stars at 16 for the first time. Who would have ever thought of that story? That's the beauty of what we're doing -- those surprises come all the time."

Pivot, in 45 million homes, is focused on "entertainment that inspires social change" among "the next greatest generation" of Millennials, the "largest group among the most-sought-after demographic," says Pivot chief Evan Shapiro. It airs programming that includes scripted comedy Please Like Me and reality series and talk show Take Part Live, which will add Meghan McCain as co-host in March. It also will run repeats of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars starting today (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).

-- Gary Levin

El Rey Network wants its 'Dawn' remake to reign

Robert Rodriguez's new El Rey Network hopes a remake of his 1996 film From Dusk Till Dawn can help it break through the cable clutter and define itself.

"I thought it would be a really great first draw to the network ... because it is a known property and those characters are so memorable," says the channel's founder and chairman, who will be directing three of Dusk's 10 episodes.

"It felt very on-brand for us, action, crime-thriller, but with an expanded universe."

The series premieres March 11 (9 p.m. ET/6 PT) on the English-language El Rey, which launched in December.

Also on tap: Reality producer Mark Burnett will bring Mexico's Lucha Libre AAA wrestling league with regular coverage, he says. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Sleepy Hollow) are producing Matador, a drama about a soccer star/spy due this summer. And producer Scott Gurney (Duck Dynasty) and Vice Media will produce reality specials on "youth subcultures."

Dawn is based on the cult classic from Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino that follows the Gecko brothers as they head for the Mexican border, fleeing the law after a bank robbery that leaves several dead.

El Rey, financed by Rodriguez and Univision, has "an eye toward capturing an English-language Hispanic audience" of young viewers, Rodriguez says.

-- Bill Keveney

Revolt channels MTV -- and then adds Twitter

Sean Combs has adopted several monikers over the years, but Revolt, his new music channel, is a name he wants to stick with viewers.

Revolt, which launched in October and is available in about 20 million homes served by Comcast and Time Warner Cable, will launch its flagship program -- Revolt Live-- Jan. 27, with separate daily editions at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT and 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT daily.

The network targets the Millennial generation of 18- to 34-year-olds and aims to replicate the original strategy of MTV, focusing on music news, videos and performances as "the CNN of music," says Revolt president Andy Schuon, an MTV veteran. But an emphasis on social media -- including an on-screen Twitter feed -- allows a broader feedback loop for musicians and fans.

"So much of the conversation about music today is a comment below a blog posting," Schuon says. "That's what we're bringing to the table, (and) that works better on TV."

Combs said last July that the channel's "mission is to bring kids back to television. Even if I become your wallpaper in your dorm room ... I'll have something on your screen that'll make you turn it up and listen to it."

Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

Original headline: Emerging cable networks aim for young viewers

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Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

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