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CMT Founder Plans Roots-Music Net

Country, bluegrass, gospel and the blues will be the staples of a new digital-music network set to launch in 2002.

CMT: Country Music Television founder Stanley Hitchcock will run Nashville, Tenn.-based Americana Music Television. The network will showcase Americana "roots" music along with features and documentaries.

The network will offer about 300 hours of original programming from the now-defunct Americana Television Network, which launched in the early 1990s. Hitchcock purchased that programming from Liberty Media Group, which was the financial backer for Americana Television in 1993. The network was dissolved a year later, a victim of changes to cable-rate regulations that squeezed out networks unwilling to pay significant launch fees, he said.

Hitchcock would not reveal whether the privately-owned network would ask for a carriage licensing fee from operators, but he did say he's spoken with a number of unnamed MSOs about launching his service.

While the network announced that telecommunications-production company Crawford Communications Inc. would serve as a strategic partner, Hitchcock wouldn't reveal any further financial details.

With The Nashville Network's evolution into the general-entertainment programmer TNN: The National Network — and with other music services catering to more mainstream tastes — Hitchcock believes there's an audience for Americana.

"There are a lot of music services out there, but none target the music that we're dealing with," Hitchcock said. "This mixture of Americana music — folk, bluegrass, jazz, blues and gospel — is viable and has never been well-distributed on cable."