Tribune Teams With The Tube To Offer Music

Tribune Broadcasting Co. will launch The Tube Music Network music-video service on its stations' digital broadcast channels this summer, marking the company's first foray into digital multicasting.

Tribune cut a deal March 9 to distribute The Tube on its stations in 22 markets. As TV stations upgrade to digital broadcasting, they are able to use their new spectrum allocation for several services. One channel is a replication of their main analog signal, and stations can use the remaining space for high-def feeds and brand-new channels. NBC's owned-and-operated stations and many affiliates, for instance, carry local weather network NBC WeatherPlus as a digital channel. The Tube is one of the earliest efforts to deliver entertainment programming via digital broadcast.

“This agreement allows us to capitalize on our stations' digital broadcast capabilities and provide enhanced content to viewers in our markets,” said Tribune Broadcasting CEO John Reardon. Tribune is the No. 5 broadcast group, with 26 stations covering 30.2% of the U.S.

“To say this is a colossal deal for us would be an understatement,” says The Tube President/CEO Les Garland, an early architect of MTV and VH1. “Their markets are strategic for us: New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, nine of the top 10 markets and 18 of the top 30.”

The Tube, which will program concerts and videos, features classic bands and newer artists, from The Rolling Stones to U2.

About 60% of the content is older artists; 40% is recent fare, with the programming refreshed weekly.

Another distinctive feature, the network says, is the stations' ability to insert their own local programming, such as videos of hometown bands or a highlight show of local music, with, of course, local commercials.

The Tribune deal is The Tube's second distribution pact with a major station group. Raycom Media launched it on 30 of its stations last summer.

Among music channels, MTV dominates with 89 million subscribers; Fuse, 41 million. There are fewer than 15 million sets getting digital broadcasts, and only about a third of cable subscribers have digital packages.