MGM back in biz with Me-TV

Lion, Weigel Broadcasting pact on vintage TV digital channel

MGM’s first major move after wrapping up its bankruptcy woes late last month is the national launch of a vintage-TV digital channel in partnership with Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting.

MGM is handling sales and distribution of the channel, dubbed Me-TV and wholly owned by Weigel. The Lion and Weigel previously partnered on the 2008 launch of digital movie channel This TV, owned by MGM.

Deal was unveiled Tuesday by MGM Worldwide TV co-prexy Jim Packer and Weigel prexy Norman Shapiro.

As with This TV, the focus for Me-TV is getting carriage on broadcasters’ multicast channels, which also translates into local cable carriage in many instances. We-TV will be offered to stations on a barter basis, in which stations would give up a portion of their advertising spots to MGM and Weigel in exchange for the programming.

Me-TV’s initial lineup of shows consists of licensed product from other studios, including Fox (“MASH”) and CBS Corp. (“Happy Days,” “Cheers,” “Laverne and Shirley”). Weigel execs are handling all licensing and programming for Me-TV. MGM is putting its TV sales infrastructureto work by spearheading the national distribution push. MGM may contribute programs from its library down the road.

Me-TV is already running on Weigel stations in Chicago and Milwaukee. The channel’s lineup also includes vintage commercials and drama series. It aims to capitalize on the attention this month for the “Green Hornet” feature by running episodes of the 1966-67 ABC series that starred Van Williams and Bruce Lee.

MGM and Weigel were among the first major TV players to offer programming to TV station owners designed to fill their digital multicast channels.

In the past year, NBC and ABC have stepped up production of original programming for their O&O digital channels, with ABC also distribbing its Live Well Network to non-O&O stations. And Tribune this month launched a vintage TV net dubbed Antenna TV. Tribune stations also carry MGM’s This TV.

Packer said he aims to offer We-TV first to incumbent This TV affiliates. MGM will shop Me-TV to station owners attending the NATPE confab in Miami later this month. “I feel like if our group is really going to be a leader in this space, I want to be out in the market with two premiere channels for movies and series,” Packer said.

At present This TV is available on stations covering 85% of U.S. TV households and 40 million cable homes. The channel began carrying national advertising last year and is rated by Nielsen.

Packer credited Weigel execs for their forward-thinking approach to programming for digital channels that still remain untapped resources by many broadcasters. Weigel owns two stations in Chicago that carry multiple digital offshoots, as well as stations in Milwaukee and South Bend, Ind. “They’ve really created a cottage industry in Chicago and done a good job of creating programming services,” he said. “When you add up all of their digital signals it nearly doubles their (adults 25-54) numbers. And when you add in the cable coverage it’s a way to move the needle for broadcasters.”

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