All Nations Network Seeks Native Niche

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network launched in Canada 16 years ago on pay TV systems via a government mandate. Many tagged it as a social experiment, APTN chief operating officer Sky Bridges says. Now, top shows on the network such as reservation drama Blackstone and reality series Mohawk Girls (pictured) win prizes at festivals including the Alberta Film and Television Awards.

Bridges and company hope that a U.S. version, dubbed All Nations Network, will find a place on pay TV lineups this year based on that track record (300-plus awards overall) and factors including heightened interest in native peoples (think of Leonardo DiCaprio’s “First Nations” shout-out at the Golden Globes) and in themes like regenerating the earth.

“There are over 200 television channels in the U.S. that fall into the multicultural programming arena, and not one is native,” Bridges told MCN. “We feel that the large native friendly audience in the U.S. has real growth potential, as witnessed by our ratings success in Canada with not only native but non-native viewers.” Some 89% of the Canadian channel’s viewing audience is non-native, APTN says.

Bridges and Castalia Communications SVP Bob Watson, handling the distribution side, have been pitching ANN to U.S. distributors as a 24-hour network with news, sports and kids’ fare in addition to the primetime originals, with more meetings planned at INTX in Boston. So far, distributors have said it’s “unique” and “worthwhile,” Watson said.

The initial U.S. target audience is 5.2 million Native Americans, per the census, and 11 million who claim native ancestry, Bridges said. Launch timing will depend on distributor interest, the ANN backers said, but the hope is to launch during 2016.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.