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The Cable Show 2014: Combs—Revolt ‘Used As a Pawn’ in NUVOtv-Fuse Deal

Los Angeles—Revolt played a key role in fellow cable network NUVOtv’s agreement, announced last month, to purchase music channel Fuse, to the chagrin of Revolt chairman and cofounder Sean Combs (pictured).

“To be honest, we were kind of used as a pawn in the situation,” Combs said in a general session Q&A with B&C editor-in-chief Melissa Grego Thursday at The Cable Show. Combs was joined onstage by Revolt CEO Keith Clinkscales, who fielded a question from Grego about Fuse, which had been courted by Revolt before finalizing a deal with NUVOtv. Combs interrupted Clinkscales to make his feelings on the outcome known.

“We’re big men and women,” Combs said. “We have our big pants on. It’s cool, that’s the way business works.”

Combs congratulated former girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, a shareholder and chief creative officer for NUVOtv on the deal.

“I sent her a note,” he said.

Fuse is carried in 73 million homes and represented an opportunity for Revolt to expand its reach. According to Clinkscales, the network will now pursue other avenues to grow its footprint.

“The most difficult thing for an independent network to do is to find a way to continue to get distribution,” Clinkscales said, adding that “to be sitting here next year and having an excellent path to distribution” was a top priority.

Combs and Clinkscales were the last of three creative-executive duos to speak with Grego onstage during the general session.

Joined by AMC Networks president and CEO Josh Sapan, Mad Men creator and executive producer Matthew Weiner attributed the current “golden age of TV” to changes in financial considerations.

“It was lower costs for talent, and special deals made by the WGA and DGA and so forth and SAG to encourage this part of the business,” Weiner said. “I think it exploded into a cost structure that allowed people to fight their way in.” That environment, he added, made it possible for him to ask AMC for rare creative freedom with Mad Men, telling the network, “I will work for less, I will work harder, if you trust my creative vision on this. It’s not like I had no supervision, but I and a lot of people like me were like this, is what I always wanted.”

Sapan had a different explanation for why the industry shifted to accommodate creatively ambitious series such as Mad Men—technology.

“It’s a show you need to pay more attention to,” Sapan said. “If you can’t ever watch it on a DVR or on any manner of on-demand, and it’s only on a linear basis Sunday from 9 to 10 and you’re busy, it may pass you by.”

BET Networks chairman and CEO Debra Lee and Being Mary Jane creator and executive producer Mara Brock Akil discussed the importance of social media to television today.

“Twitter saved The Game, period,” Akil said of her previous series, which, after being canceled by The CW, was the subject of a successful social-media fan campaign to have the series revived on BET.

“It definitely drives tune in,” Lee said of Twitter, noting that she, Akil, and series star Gabrielle Union all tweet during the Being Mary Jane broadcasts to create live conversation. “I think Twitter is the best thing to ever happen to TV. Twitter allows you to create these shows as live events.”