Sean Combs wakes up TCA with Revolt

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.–Just as one Canadian network prepares to turn down the music, a new venture in the U.S. is about to crank it up.
Sean Combs was at the Television Critics Association press tour Friday morning to hype Revolt, a new music-focused cable channel coming to 25 million U.S. homes this fall.
The 43-year-old rapper, record  producer, actor and entrepreneur worked the room and spoke passionately about the project. “This is the hardest, most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Combs. “It literally almost drove me crazy two weeks ago.”
Combs says he’s tried for years to launch a TV station. He kept calling Comcast, asking to re-brand one of their cable properties, but they turned him down.
Others asked why get into the TV business. “TV is nowhere,” he was told. Combs feels just the opposite is true. “TV is about to be everywhere.”
While some see the TV business as going down the toilet, Combs says TV is “on the toilet”–and everywhere else.
His goal with Revolt, which will be available to Comcast and Time-Warner subscribers come the fall, is to make it the No. 1 music brand in TV. The sizzle reel shown to critics was star-packed and punchy. Combs has brought in some big names to help launch the venture, including Keith Clinkscales as CEO.
Combs hopes to not get too bogged down with the nitty-gritty, to stay the visionary. A few ideas sound pretty interesting, including letting viewers butt into programming live, change the playlist, and just generally call the shots.”The revolution will be televised,” a slogan heard almost daily down here at this TCA, was all over the Revolt brand.
Combs feels most viewers could live with just four channels, CNN, ESPN, maybe the weather channel, and Revolt. He kept stressing that music is the No. 1 connector to the Millennial generation. Eight of the top 10 twitter names were music artists, he pointed out.
He sees Revolt as the artists channel and says, with MTV being less and less about music, there is no place for artists on TV. “I had to beg to get on American Idol or Letterman,” he says, adding those shows didn’t exactly deliver him to his demo.
Combs did a good job Friday lowering expectations. “We’re going to be messing up a lot in the next 12 months,” he said. Still, his eventual aim is “for greatness.”

Revolt’s rise comes as word filters back from sources in Toronto that MuchMusic is about to move even further away from music and performance and more towards comedy. Several staffing changes are underway.
The specialty channel was once a proud example of a Canadian brand surging forward as a success both commercially and artistically. Today it seems an afterthought, in second position behind Bell’s acquired MTV channels.
The usual analysis is that YouTube killed music stations like MuchMusic a long time ago, but Combs and those at Revolt see things differently. Their service will be more about music news, taking fans backstage and into private conversations. Revolt will deliver the intimate connection to the artists not found on YouTube or anywhere else.

A panel later in the day introduced critics to Pivot, a service also aimed at Millennials. launching Stateside Aug. 1. Pivot is part of Participant Media–the company reviving classic soap operas on-line–and is offering a mix of news, old sitcoms and original programming aimed at 18 to 34-year-olds.
One of the first shows briefly flashed on the sizzle reel was CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie, a series that was never particularly strong in the younger demos. Pivot has it back-to back weeknights from 7 to 8 p.m.
The panel featured president Evan Shapiro, movie star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Meghan McCain, daughter of the former presidential candidate and other young hosts from places such as HuffPost.com.
Older critics huffed that these young ‘uns shouldn’t be trying to tell us how to do television. Others felt they’d seen this show before, a few years back when Al Gore tried to launch Current, There was some “Get off my lawn!” push back from the room, especially after the kids tried to sell themselves as the next “Greatest Generation.” Entitled whippersnappers!
I just thought of my kids, who are 20 and 23, and who find ways to stream content without either one paying for cable. What is the revenue model? Where do these Pivot kids expect to find the money–from their parents? Better start sucking up to us the way Diddy did.

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