Participant Media to Shut Down Pivot Cable Network

Participant Media is shutting down Pivot, a tiny cable network caught in the squeeze affecting the pay-TV universe.

The parent company continues to operate in the film and digital arenas, finding success by helping fund films such as Spotlight, Lincoln and The Help and operating, a digital brand focused on social change. But after execs determined that the turbulent TV landscape presented too many challenges, they weren't able to find a buyer or partner for their stand-alone TV network.

Participant bought Documentary Channel and Halogen TV to launch Pivot in 2013. It was designed to reach a millennial audience, offering content both on cable and online.

In all, Participant reportedly invested more the $200 million in Pivot, which aired a mix of original and acquired programming, earning critics' praise for shows like Please Like Me and Fortitude (both international acquisitions) and HitRECord on TV, an Emmy-nominated variety show fronted by Joseph Gordon Levitt.

With its lineup drawing ratings not big enough for Nielsen measurement, Pivot faced pressure renewing its distribution deals in an atmosphere in which operators are consolidating and unwilling to pay to carry channels with small audiences.

“As the media landscape changes, we have been evaluating how we fulfill our mission to entertain and inspire social action around the world’s most pressing issues. That process has led us to the decision to move away from owning and operating a cable network,” said David Linde, CEO of Participant Media. “While this conclusion was not an easy one, it is ultimately in the best interest of all our stakeholders, and allows us to allocate more resources toward the production of compelling content across all platforms.”

Linde said the decision to wind down the network came after a lengthy analysis.

“The network’s real achievements can be wholly attributed to the Pivot team, of whom we are incredibly proud. This very talented group’s commitment to our broader mission has been absolute, and we are very grateful for their significant contributions to the organization,” he said.

"At the same time, demand for high-quality content has continued to grow as consumers spend increasing amounts of time watching content at home, at work and on-the-go. There has never been a better time to be a creator of great content,” Linde added. “By focusing squarely in that direction, Participant is positioning itself to take advantage of these trends.”

Participant declined to address the future status of the TV network's dedicated workforce.

Evan Shapiro, who launched Pivot TV, left in 2014 and is now executive VP of digital enterprises at NBCUniversal, where he launched Seeso, a subscription video comedy service. Kent Rees led Pivot as GM after Shapiro's exit.

The shutdown was first reported by Variety and The Wrap just prior to the official announcement.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.