Video-on-demand music service Music Choice is entering the interactive arena in a major way with the launch of SWRV, a new, full-time music video channel.
Targeted to 12-to-24-year-olds, the ad-supported channel — which launched this past Tuesday to Cox Communications digital cable customers in New England and Virginia — will let viewers submit user-generated content, vote for videos and program several shows through mobile phone or online uploads. That's according to Dave Del Beccaro, CEO of Music Choice, which is owned by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, EMI Music, Microsoft, Motorola and Sony.
The announcement comes at a time when MTV, which could not be reached for comment on the story, announced early last week that it is removing the words “music television” from its logo as it concentrates more on its reality and scripted programming.
“The difference between this and other music-video networks is that you can interact with it on some basis at all times, it doesn't require any cable technology — its all through the laptop and PC — and the viewers participate in the network on a very fundamental scale,” Del Beccaro told Multichannel News. “This generation doesn't only want to view their content whenever and wherever they want but they want to participate and help formulate the content.”
Del Becarro would not disclose the rate card for SWRV (pronounced swerve), but said the fee “is not extraordinarily expensive.”
He said the network is close to distribution deals with other MSOs, but would not provide specifics.
Music programmed will be from current pop artists: a promotional reel shown to Multichannel News featured the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Justin Bieber and Jay-Z, along with samples of young viewers. Operators distributing the Philadelphia-based Music Choice's 42 million subscriber VOD service and/or its 45 million subscriber-based audio cable channels will receive a license-fee discount for the SWRV service, Del Beccaro said.
SWRV affiliates will also be able to offer subscribers a live feed of the channel online, through its Web site (www.swrv.tv).
Cox likes that the service combines the Web, cable and mobile platforms used by its consumers, “particularly among the younger 15-to-24-year-olds,” Cox corporate manager of public relations Erin Lambremont said. Cox will look to roll out the service to more of its systems in the future, she said.
SWRV will launch with 10 interactive, hit-driven shows, primarily featuring mainstream pop-music videos. The technology has also advanced far beyond the days when Video Jukebox Network, later called The Box, used to charge viewers who called a 900 number to request music videos. Viacom bought The Box and morphed it into MTV2 in 2001.
Del Beccaro said the company's interactive-ready technology backbone has the ability to capture votes instantly so that a requested video can be on the air seconds after its chosen by viewers, online or via cellphone.
New shows include Majority Rules, in which viewers get to choose from one of three videos to air next on the channel. “While one video is playing viewers can vote from three choices to determine what plays next,” Del Becarro said.
Another show, Vidi-cations, lets viewers upload a video dedication. Viewers can go to the network site to see which videos will play during the show and position their dedications appropriately. SWRV will send out notifications as to when the videos will air and provide an autolink to the viewer's Facebook page, he said.
A third program, SWRV Takeover, lets a viewer commandeer the channel for 15 minutes to create a personal introduction for each of the three videos they've picked to air during the segment. Those who don't see their picks on TV will still get to post the productions to Facebook.
“We want viewers to feel like this is their network — they create the feel and personality to it,” Del Beccaro said. “We want to give them a feeling of control that they've never had over a network and socialize it.”
Del Beccaro said the SWRV launch positions the company to best serve 12-to-24-year-olds' music video needs by giving them the opportunity to virtually program the channel. “This generation wants to interact with their product so with SWRV there isn't any specific formula to it,” he said.
The fully interactive nature of the network leaves few competitors to SWRV, said Del Beccaro, including existing networks like MTV, Fuse or BET. “The amount of development and technology that went into making this possible is rather extraordinary, so we wanted to make sure that we were first and well in front of anyone else.”
BET and Fuse representatives could not be reached by press time for comment.
R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.
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