Klein Venture Taps Into ‘Ultra Niche’ Personalities

NEW YORK — If Jon Klein’s new TAPP initiative flies, he’ll have both Glenn Beck and Don Hewitt to thank.

Klein, former CNN U.S. president, is partnering with former NBC entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin on the over-the-top niche channel service, which offers subscription content centered around prominent personalities such as Sarah Palin and Herman Cain. Klein — who knew Beck from the host’s days on HLN — saw how Beck was able to transition from television to a subscription service and figured there were other personalities out there who could command thousands of paid subscribers.

“I said, he can’t possibly be the only ultraniche personality with a fan base that is willing to pay,” said Klein, founder and CEO of TAPP.

Klein’s days at 60 Minutes — he was executive vice president of CBS News — included a lesson from the legendary Hewitt, who told him human faces are what draw eyeballs to screens, which explains the characteristic close-up shots on the venerable newsmag. Palin’s mug as an icon on a smartphone or tablet, he said, holds more allure for many consumers than a Netflix app.

Klein offered the closing keynote at the Business of Multiplatform TV conference, with Mark Robichaux, editor in chief of Multichannel News, moderating.

TAPP is tapping data big and small to study exactly who will pay for what. Top-notch TV programmers, Klein said, bat around .200 in terms of hit shows; smart data can boost the average to .300 and up.

The model for TAPP content is a 20- to 30-minute daily production that sells for $9.95 a month. More superfan-friendly programs are in the offing. Klein did not divulge who the star hosts are, but he identified the stage on which they’ll star.

“This is the new battleground,” Klein said, tapping his iPad.

Michael Malone is deputy editor of Broadcasting & Cable.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.