Tribune Broadcasting Co. and the digital music television network The Tube announced Thursday a deal that will place the fledgling network on stations in the nation’s largest markets and dramatically increase its exposure.
The deal would make The Tube available on Tribune television stations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and 15 other major U.S. markets potentially reaching 17 million to 19 million homes, said The Tube Music Network founder Les Garland, who once co-founded MTV and its sister VH1. Tribune stations will begin broadcasting The Tube this summer.
“This landmark agreement firmly positions us at the forefront of the digital multicast era and enables us to marry innovative content with ground-breaking technology, delivering real benefit to the consumer,” Garland said Thursday.
The Tube takes advantage of a technology called multicasting, which allows broadcasting stations to distribute a main signal plus up to three secondary signals. For example, The Tube is already available in West Palm Beach on Channel 29.2, which falls under WFLX-TV’s digital signal.
The Tube, which is based in Fort Lauderdale, is currently available in 2.9 million U.S. homes through Raycom Media’s network of digital television stations in markets such as Memphis, Tenn., and Albuquerque, N.M. Viewers can receive the signal in two ways: either over-the-air with a digital tuner already included in their television, or through digital cable carriers, which must carry local television channels and their sub-channels at no cost.
“We’re excited to be partnering with The Tube Music Network in our first multicast initiative,” said John Reardon, president of Chicago-based Tribune Broadcasting. “This agreement allows us to capitalize on our stations’ digital broadcast capabilities and provide enhanced content to viewers in our markets.”
Legislation passed by the Senate in December would require broadcasters to end their traditional analog transmissions by Feb. 17, 2009, and send their signals digitally.
The Tube began operations last summer, and its slogan is, “Think of it as music television, only with music.” It plays about 14 videos per hour, and unlike MTV and its offspring, has no VJs, no game shows, no reality shows, no awards shows and only 6 minutes of advertising per hour. Garland refers to it as the “deconstruction” of music television.
“Let’s let the music be the star again. Let the artist be the star again,” Garland said Thursday.
The message is for the 30-and-over set, which Garland believes in underserved. The demographic includes Generation X and the Baby Boomers, and music video selections and concert clips from artists such as Norah Jones, Led Zeppelin, Alanis Morrissette and U2.
“Eclectic would be an understatement,” said Garland, who left MTV in 1988.
The Tube plans to bring in revenue for itself and its partners through several sources. The company will allow local broadcasters to sell a one-minute ad each hour, and the company also plans to give 15 percent of net ad revenue to major broadcast groups who negotiate distribution agreements with The Tube.
Another source of revenue would be through The Tube’s planned Web site, which would sell merchandise such as CDs, DVDs and concert tickets connected to artists shown on the channel.
“We want the Web site to be a store-front, as a service to our viewers,” Garland said.
The Tribune Co.’s broadcasting group operates 26 television stations all over the country, many of them affiliated with The WB. The Tube is a wholly-owned subsidiary of AgU Entertainment.