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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 02, 2013

Can P. Diddy's Revolt TV Make Music Videos Popular Again?

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Revolt TV, set to launch on Oct. 21, is bringing back old-school music television to the airwaves, courtesy of mastermind Sean Combs, who has spent the better part of 18 months working on the channel.

Revolt has national carriage deals with both Comcast (News - Alert) and Time Warner Cable (TWC), making it one of the largest independent network launches in cable television history. Through music videos, performances, interviews and news, Revolt says that it “will deliver the best of the best in music to the first multi-platform network for artists and fans - all live, on-air, and at the speed of social media.”

Essentially, Revolt is taking an older format—think MTV in the early years—and revisiting it with a few nods to today’s hyperconnected social reality. It will actually—gasp!—play videos for most of the time.

Image via Shutterstock

And it’s staffing up with veterans. Whitney-Gayle Benta has joined the new multi-platform television channel as senior vice president of music and talent. Tellingly, she comes from MTV News, where she negotiated talent booking. She also “co-conceptualized” the MTV Diary documentary “Jay-Z: Water For Life,” and managed the series booking for “When I Was 17,” “This Is How I Made It” and “Rapfix Live.”

"Talent relations are crucial, especially for a network like REVOLT that offers fans unprecedented access to their favorite artists," said Andy Schuon, president and co-founder of the channel. "Whitney's combination of music industry know-how, TV production credits and contacts will push Revolt to become the No. 1 music destination for millennials."

But will younger people deign to give Revolt the eyeballs it needs to take off, if music videos are the core focus? After all, there’s a reason that MTV and VH1 have become the repositories for culture-cidal reality TV like “Jersey Shore” more than anything else. One has to ask oneself, when’s the last time you saw a music video on TV? In its entirety? And by choice?

It’s worth considering the fate of the competition as well. Madison Square Garden’s music channel, Fuse, is music video-focused and in 73 million households, but averages just 55,000 total viewers in prime time. MTV2, the second-tier network where MTV sends its music video content these days, averages just 161,000 viewers in prime time. VH1 Classic, despite its focus on the Golden Age of music video artistry (“Rio,” anyone? “Thriller”?), is even worse. It’s watched by a paltry 39,000 viewers on any given night—presumably Gen Xers looking to relive those heady days of VJs and world premieres.

For its part, Revolt is bullish. P. Diddy clearly believes in bringing curated music back to the fore even in the age of on-demand music radio and digital downloads that let fans listen to what they want—and only to what they want.

The advertising community is cautiously optimistic about the viability of the network. "When they are looking to reach the young people 18 into late 20s both male and female, brands look to explore music platforms," said Brent Poer, president, SMG LiquidThread North America, speaking to AdAge. "It's one of the through-lines and connectivity points for the age group no matter the ethnicity, geography or gender."

Here’s another ray of hope: some say that it’s not the quantity of the viewers, but the quality. "No one sees them as being a ratings powerhouse," Sam Armando, senior vice president and director of strategic intelligence at Publicis Groupe's SMGx, told AdAge. "Small ratings will be accepted if it reaches an audience that's hard to reach: a younger audience that hasn't been watching traditional TV."

It can do that via its multiplatform play—Revolt will not only be a cable net, but also a mobile station and an online channel. Also, music is the lifeblood of young people, and millennials are, let’s be honest, perhaps too young to remember why music video formats got boring. In other words, it may be all be a cool new way to get close to artists as far as they’re concerned. Obviously only time will tell—it will come down to the content, how it’s presented, what kind of celebs it can book in and what it’s wrapped in with (Diddy would be wise to insist on a deep stable of second-screen content).

Revolt CEO Keith Clinkscales offered a clue to AdAge: "I don't think we will ever get back to a point where people run home to watch the premiere of "Thriller' video on TV. But there are different types of moments we can create. We want to become part of the viral process. You can still fill a 24-hour network with music."

Edited by Alisen Downey

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