Seacrest is teaming with HDnet founder Mark Cuban, live concert behemoth AEG, and powerful Hollywood talent agency Creative Artists Agency to rebrand HDnet as an ESPN of pop culture, the parties revealed Wednesday afternoon in a well-choreographed simultaneous multi-publication announcement.
Cuban’s cable network, launched in 20001, will be re-branded as AXS (stands for, and pronounced “Access”) this summer. It will load up on music concerts – tapping into the music assets of AEG. The new network also will be heavy on “lifestyle” shows, including a flagship program called “AXS Live” which Cuban described as “’SportsCenter’ for pop culture.”
The new network will also feature access to an archive of past concerts and upcoming ones too from such venues as the Los Angeles Staples Center to London’s 02 Arena.
In the various press reports about the new deal, the TV industry navel gazers described AXS’s closest competitor as E!. That’s the Comcast-owned all-things-pop-culture cable network that is littered with Ryan Seacrest reporting, and Ryan Seacrest-produced programming – like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Seacrest has been in talks with Comcast as to what his future role would be at that network and the larger company – including discussions about a role on NBC’s “Today Show” that had newsies’ undies in a bunch a few weeks back.
According to the reports, Cuban is a 50-50 partner with the combined other participants. Seacrest is a stakeholder but will not appear on air.
This has you wondering what’s to become of HDnet’s Dan Rather newcast, right? Well, it and HDNet’s coverage of mixed martial arts will transition to AXS, Cuban said in some reports. But the skanky late-night “Girls Gone Wild” series? Bye bye!
One year ago word got out that Seacrest was looking to launch his own network with AEG and CAA. But re-branding existing HDnet instead means AXS immediately is available in Hdnet’s 27 million-ish homes and satellite broadcaster Dish Network already has agreed to up its carriage of the network once its rebranded, bringing its reach to about 35 million homes.
This rebranding may sound like a slam-dunk – as is anything Seacrest touches these days. But throw your mind back to Discovery Communications announcement it was rebranding Discovery Health as OWN, in partnership with Oprah Winfrey and her Harpo Productions. Can’t miss, right? Only it’s still struggling to find an audience. Likewise, former VPOTUS Al Gore’s rebranding of NewsWorld International as Current TV, which more recently hired Keith Olbermann away from MSNBC.