Participant Media plans cable TV network targeting millenials

LOS ANGELES Mon Dec 17, 2012 11:04pm EST

LOS ANGELES Dec 17 (Reuters) - Entertainment company Participant Media, one of the backers of the hit historical drama "Lincoln", will launch a cable TV network next summer with programming that focuses on social issues of interest to the millenials generation of teens and young adults.

The channel's original programming, films and documentaries will be aimed at viewers age 18 to 34 in the large demographic group known as millenials, Participant Media CEO Jim Berk said in an interview on Monday.

Millenials are particularly interested in the type of content that Participant produces about social issues, Berk said. The studio's credits include the current release "Lincoln", about President Abraham Lincoln's push to ban slavery, last year's civil rights drama "The Help" and Al Gore climate change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth".

Participant Media is creating the new network by purchasing two existing cable channels, The Documentary Channel and Halogen TV. After those networks are combined and rebranded, the new channel will reach an estimated 40 million of the more than 100 million U.S. pay-TV subscribers.

The company, founded by billionaire and former eBay Inc President Jeff Skoll with the aim of producing entertaining content that inspires social change, interacts regularly with more than 2.5 million people through social media, local movie screenings and its Takepart.com website, Berk said.

The challenge for Participant will be to sign up additional pay-TV distributors and win viewership in a crowded media landscape. The company is privately held and is not part of a large media conglomerate.

"We have the funding necessary to take a very long-term view, and to spend what we need to spend in terms of programming," Berk said.

The mainstay of the network's lineup will be original programming from a variety of genres, said Evan Shapiro, a Participant executive who will run the new network.

The company is developing programming with established Hollywood names including former MTV President Brian Graden, "Inconvenient Truth" director Davis Guggenheim and documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock.

Participant also hopes to work with pay-TV distributors to make the channel's content available on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, to meet the viewing patterns of younger audiences, Shapiro said.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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