Skip to main content

New Nets Eye Outlets for Men, Gays

A group of ex-Showtime Networks Inc. executives are developing a digital channel aimed at
men, officials said last week.

The group is now trying to find private investment partners to finance the
launch of Maverick Entertainment Network, which has set a tentative debut date
of early 2004.

"We've already done our initial stage of financing," said Steve Severn, part
of the group trying to launch MEN. "Now we need the right strategic partner."

Like Severn, Steve Smith, Rob Stevens and Doug Jost -- the other partners
behind MEN -- are all former vice presidents, general managers or directors of
Showtime affiliate-sales regions with more than 40 years of combined

"We have a very successful track record at distribution," Severn said. 'We
know how hard it is to start a network."

Meanwhile, Severn's former colleagues at Showtime and MTV Networks plan to
launch a gay and lesbian premium digital network, named Outlet, next spring,
according to a purported internal memo posted on the Internet last week

A Showtime spokeswoman said it was "too premature" to talk about the gay

She wouldn't comment on the authenticity of the memo.

The programming plan for MEN calls for a network that would offer information
on a daily basis on a variety of topics of interest to males -- such as
entertainment, finance and sports -- in an "edgy, humorous" fashion.

Severn said that as a viewer today, he has to go to networks ranging from
ESPN to MSNBC to get that information.

"As a man, there are probably five or six networks I'll fly through to try to
find what I'm looking for," he added. "There is the opportunity for putting
something together in one place. We will talk to men the way men talk to each

In trying to launch the channel, Severn said his group is trying to do for
men 18 through 54 what has already been done for women: create a channel dedicated
solely to the masculine half of the population.

"Lifetime [Television has] done it in a wonderful fashion [for women], and Oxygen has
struggled to do it, and you even have [WE:] Women's Entertainment," Severn said.
"But for men, programming is very fractionalized."

Several programmers have considered creating a cable channel for men, similar
to the men's lifestyle magazines, readership of which has grown 8.3 percent in the
past year, according to Mediamark Research.

Sources said Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc. has studied launching a men's channel
modeled on Details magazine, although Vulcan denied it.

And at one point, Universal Television Group was talking to Maxim about
creating a network based on that sassy, irreverent publication.

But Universal has decided not to go forward as a partner in the Maxim

"We looked at the possibility of a Maxim partnership for a network, but at the
end of the day, it just didn't work out," said Steve Webster, senior vice
president of communications for Universal Television.

Severn doesn't see MEN being as outrageous as a network based on Maxim might
have been.

"Maxim is very over the top," Severn said. "People read it just for a grin.
People don't take it seriously."

He added that the landscape for launching a network is brutal now, so many
groups are not doing it. This means "it's a great time to strike" and roll out

Severn added that his group has "a unique distribution plan" for MEN, but he
declined to discuss it. He also would not say exactly how much money MEN was
trying to raise, but he said it was less than the $100 million several other
start-ups have secured to debut.