Esquire, Revolt, FXX: A look at TV’s newest networks this fall


The League Training Camp. Pictured: (L-R) Nick Kroll as Ruxin, Robert Griffin III as Himself. (Patrick McElhenney)
September 13, 2013

Didn’t anyone learn from Oprah?

Launching a network isn’t as easy at it looks, even with a built-in, devoted fan base. But a slew of television executives — and a celebrity — are taking a chance anyway, starting up new channels in today’s fractured media landscape and looking to capture some elusive pockets of viewers, from upscale men to those mischievous millennials. Emily Yahr has a primer on this season’s newest channels.

Esquire Network

Owner: NBCUniversal and Hearst Magazines

Replaces: Style

How to find it in D.C.: Comcast 58, Verizon 160, DirecTV 235, Dish 115, RCN 218

Availability: 75 million homes

Launch date: Sept. 23

Target audience: Upscale men, ages 18 to 49

Sample shows : Reality shows “Knife Fight,” “Brew Dogs” (Sept. 24); “The Getaway” (Sept. 25)

Why it exists: To cater to the under-appreciated “upscale men” demographic, of course.

What to expect: A channel that, in its own words, “champions the pursuit of a well-played life” and, taking after its men’s magazine namesake, is the “definitive network for the modern, multifaceted man.” So, all you multifaceted guys out there, get ready for lots of reality shows about travel, food and high-tech gadgets. For example, gritty cooking competition “Knife Fight,” hosted by former “Top Chef” winner Ilan Hall, challenges chefs to create meals at a fancy Los Angeles restaurant. Meanwhile, “Brew Dogs” sends U.K. beer experts across America while “The Getaway” flies NBC stars (Joel McHale, Aziz Ansari) around the world to party on the network’s dime.

FXX

Owner: Fox Networks Group

Replaces: Fox Soccer Channel

How to find it in D.C. : Comcast 725, DirecTV 619, DISH 390, RCN 362

Availability: 72 million homes

Launched: Sept. 2

Target audience: Young adults, ages 18 to 34

Sample shows: Comedies “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “The League” (Wednesdays); “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell” (nightly)

Why it exists: Advertisers always want to reach young viewers. Those young viewers almost always lack the attention span to watch TV. Kids these days! Sister network FX wasn’t quite doing the trick, but the network hopes that luring 18-to-34-year olds with their favorite FX programming (“Sunny,” “League,” etc.) will motivate them to stick around. Also making the move to the new network is comedian W. Kamau Bell’s late-night talk show.

What to expect: Comedies, mostly; that highbrow FX is keeping the dramas. While the early days of FXX will feature lots of acquired series and movies, the network will eventually expand to more serious fare. In the meantime, enjoy reruns of shows such as “Parks and Recreation,” “Arrested Development” and “How I Met Your Mother,” along with ’90s favorites “Mad About You,” “Spin City” and “Sports Night.”

Pivot

Owner: Participant Media, an independent film company

Replaces: Documentary Channel

How to find it in D.C. : DirecTV 267, Dish 197

Availability: 40 million homes

Launched: Aug. 1

Target audience: Millennials, ages 18 to 34

Sample shows: Docu-series “Jersey Strong” (Saturdays); comedy “Please Like Me”; docu-talk show “Raising McCain” (Saturdays)

Why it exists: One word: Millennials. Nobody knows what they want, but now there’s an entire channel that will try to figure it out. One thing we’re pretty sure they don’t like is watching traditional TV, so the network offers a live-streaming app for mobile devices.

What to expect: A little bit of everything, such as “Please Like Me,” a comedy about the awkward life of 25-year-old Australian comedian Josh Thomas. Plus, John McCain’s daughter, headline-maker Meghan McCain, who debuted her docu-talk show with a segment on the end of privacy in modern times. Families from Newark are explored in “Jersey Strong,” while the channel hypes Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Hit RECord On TV!” variety show, launching in January.

Revolt TV

Owner: Sean “Diddy” Combs

Availability: Starting on Comcast and Time Warner in major markets, such as New York and Los Angeles, with plans to expand next year

Launch date: October

Target audience: Millennials, ages 18 to 34

Sample shows: None have been announced, and the music-themed network is turning to the Internet for new hires; there’s an open casting call through Sept. 30 for on-air talent.

Why it exists: Maybe Diddy longs for his “Making the Band” glory days as a TV producer? Either way, the hip-hop mogul has decided that since MTV has all but given up on actually playing music, this channel can fill a void. The plan is to take advantage of the social media era to showcase new music, and have artists be involved in the programming. Also, this is one of the African American-owned networks that Comcast promised to distribute, as part of requirements for FCC approval during the NBC Universal merger.

What to expect: Honestly? No idea. Music videos, presumably. Very little is known about the network, especially considering the launch date is just a month away. It’s not even clear which cities will get Revolt. The only information available hints that potential shows will be about “the influence of music on art, culture and society,” with a millennial twist. Translation: lots of hashtags will be involved.

Al Jazeera America

Owner: Al Jazeera Media Network in Qatar

Replaces: Current TV

How to find it in D.C.: Comcast 107, DirecTV 358, Dish 215, RCN 326

Availability: 40 million homes

Launched: Aug. 20

Target audience: Anyone who watches the news

Sample shows: Prime-time nightly lineup of news programs “America Tonight,” “Consider This”; financial series “Real Money With Ali Velshi”

Why it exists: Flagship channel Al Jazeera, headquartered in Qatar, has been trying for years to expand its audience stateside, launching the international Al Jazeera English back in 2006, but never had much luck with the American viewing public. So it decided to start a U.S.-based network of its own, focusing on domestic news, hiring hundreds to be based in a dozen bureaus (New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Nashville and more).

What to expect: Standard cable news programs starring heavily credentialed reporters from rival channels; the network has repeatedly stated the goal of being a more serious, in-depth destination for unbiased news. Big names from other cable news networks (Soledad O’Brien, Ali Velshi) have joined the ranks, while technology-heavy show “The Stream” will feature journalists Lisa Fletcher and Wajahat Ali interacting with guests via Twitter and Skype.

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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