NewFronts: AOL’s HuffPost Live Jump Cable

Mark Cuban-backed cabler will carry six-hour daytime block of talkshow programming

HuffPost Live, AOL’s Internet video talkshow network, is coming to old-fashioned TV through pact with AXS TV cable network run by billionaire Mark Cuban.

AXS TV is not paying AOL for the programming, nor is HuffPost Live paying for carriage on the cable net. “HuffPost Live on AXS TV” will air live five days a week, for six hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET) starting May 13. HuffPost Live will continue to also be available free online at live.huffingtonpost.com, while the feed for AXS TV will be enhanced with multiple different visual and social elements. Partners plan to debut an app for the programming block that will let AXS TV viewers join the real-time conversation happening on HuffPost Live.

“Live TV drives social media, and real-time social media drives live TV,” said Cuban, founder, president and chairman of AXS TV. “While other networks are happy to run repeats ad nauseam, we’re going to drive live conversations and new ways to connect with audiences.”

AXS TV currently airs repeats of live concerts and shows during weekdays. Cabler, available to 41 million U.S. homes, is backed by Cuban, AEG, CAA, CBS and Ryan Seacrest Media.

HuffPost Live prexy Roy Sekoff said company had been in discussions with multiple cable networks about a pact. “They said, ‘We love what you’re doing but we’re trying to figure out what we would do with it.’ When we spoke to Mark, he said, ‘Can you test the feed tomorrow?’”

HuffPost Live, broadcast from New York and L.A. studios, debuted Aug. 13, 2012. Internet network streams 12 hours per day (10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET). Talkshow-format program, which covers current events, pop culture and lifestyle topics, invites viewers to join via webcam, with more than 8,000 people have joined on-air.

“We’ve had people join us live from 80 countries,” Sekoff said.

During AOL’s Digital Content NewFronts presentation Tuesday in New York, Arianna Huffington, Sekoff and Cuban are skedded to tout partnership in front of audience of media buyers.

Cuban said live programming has been the entire focus for AXS TV as the TV biz changes. Net premiered last June, after Cuban converted HDNet to AXS TV, which focuses on live concerts.

“It’s not going to work to try to come up with the next hit show. It drives costs up too high to be a hit-driven business,” he said. “Live [programming] creates uncertainty, and unique engagement because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

On AXS TV, HuffPost Live will carry same ad load (12 minutes per hour). Cuban declined to discuss details of how ad sales will work but said “there is upside for both of us.” HuffPost Live also features some integrated programming with sponsors’ brands.

Companies also see opportunities to feature performers and talent from AXS TV’s programming on HuffPost Live. For example, “before Carrie Underwood appears live on AXS TV, she can talk to her fans on HuffPost Live,” Sekoff said.

HuffPost Live has a staff of about 100, including producers, on-air talent, and crew.

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