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Cable Vet’s Venture Takes Club Acts on the Virtual Road

Many fans of live-music performances can’t make it out to the clubs every night. But they’d be willing to pay $5 a month for the chance to graze among, say, performances by Billy Cobham, Rickie Lee Jones or Shawn Colvin from small venues, live and in high-definition video and mixing-board sound, on an iPad at home.

That’s the thinking behind, founded by former C-SPAN, FOXTEL and MSO regional marketing chief Brian Gruber.

Gruber has a lot of cable experts advising the venture, including board chairman (and founding investor) Lou Borrelli, Paul Maxwell and XM Satellite Radio co-founder Hugh Panero. Katherine Ajk, the VP of affiliate relations, had marketing stints at CharterCommunications, AT&T Broadband and Verizon.

Another boost came in the form of an investment from SFMusic Tech Fund, run by Brian Zisk, and an official launch at last week’s SFMusic Tech Summit.

Said Zisk in a statement: “I have seen many companies try to crack the code on streaming live concerts, often unsuccessfully. I am very excited about I believe they have the right model, the right vision and the right team to build a global service that will quickly become the go-to place for daily, top-quality live music.”

The streams are free to sample while the service builds up a stable of venues — initial clubs include The Bitter End in New York, Yoshi’s San Francisco and Blue Note Milan (Italy) — and develops the user experience.

Gruber tested the concept of building an affiliate network of elite venues successfully with, which he founded in 2005 to stream conferences and events.

“My second passion after public affairs is live music,” he told The Wire. “To me, there’s something magical and visceral about experiencing live music, particularly in small, intimate clubs.”

The model is very cable-like, he said. A subscription service offering choice, convenience and value — one a 14-year-old kid in Kansas or Karachi could afford. “If you’ve got a digital device, you can afford $5 a month to have five or 10 live shows streamed every hour in HD to any device.”

The goal is to be in several hundred music venues around the world, starting with 100 clubs in the U.S.; there are 10 clubs on board now. It’s “a lean-back experience” for tablet devices and Webconnected TVs, “with a really immersive social and mobile user experience,” Gruber said.

Gruber said he hopes, over time, to expand into on-demand archived shows, but those rights are harder to obtain. He has raised “several hundred thousand” dollars so far, and expansion will come with later funding rounds.

‘Office’ Politics No Problem for Kornbluh

Karen Kornbluh, who remains on the short list of candidates to replace Federal Communications Commission chairman JuliusGenachowski when he decides to exit, has a roundabout connection to Comcast’s NBCUniversal.

No, we don’t mean her current post as ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the group whose broadband charts are used by critics of Comcast and other ISPs to opine that U.S. broadband buildouts lag those of postage-stamp sized countries and totalitarian regimes. OK, that is a roundabout connection, but we’re talking about another one.

The Wire instead is referring to the fact — thanks Wikipedia — that John Krasinski’s character of Jim Halpert in NBC’s The Office, was named after her husband, attorney Jim Halpert, a partner with DLA Piper in D.C.

Halpert confirmed the anecdote. “I grew up with [Office executive producer] Greg Daniels, and when he was writing the pilot for the show, he thought it would be fun naming a character after me,” he told The Wire.

Given some of the characters in the original Ricky Gervais-StephenMerchant britcom the NBC show was based on, Halpert said he wasn’t sure it was going to be a good or bad thing. “But it turned out to be a very nice thing.”

Kornbluh won’t have to recuse herself from Comcast/ NBCU items due to the tenuous connection, but Halpert, who is a partner in the Communications, E-Commerce and Privacy practice of the firm, is ready to adjust to life as the husband of an FCC chair. “If Karen were nominated, I would not be representing any clients that had anything to do with the FCC.”

As for Office connections, he noted: “The show will have gone off the air.”

Ah, but don’t forget about syndication, Jim.

— John Eggerton

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. He got his bachelor's degree at Pace University in Westchester County, N.Y.