With the shift in programming format by MTV and VH1 away from music content, there’s a “wide-open space” to create a multiplatform network geared around music to reach the millennial generation, said Combs, speaking at Thursday’s general session at the Cable Show 2014.
“I saw it as an opportunity to create a worldwide brand, following in the footsteps of ESPN and CNN,” Combs said, exhibiting a flair for braggadocio.
Of course, Revolt is nowhere near that ambitious goal today. The fledgling channel, which launched in October 2013, is available in about 25 million households on Time Warner Cable, Comcast and CenturyLink, and claims to reach 50 million young adults across multiple platforms. As Combs put it, “I’ve got to start somewhere. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Revolt was looking to get a distribution boost by buying Fuse, reportedly bidding $200 million for the cabler, which is available in about 73 million pay-TV homes. But the parent company of NuvoTV, whose backers include Jennifer Lopez, outbid Revolt with a $226 million deal with MSG to acquire Fuse.
Combs, Revolt’s chairman, expressed disappointment that he lost the Fuse deal. “We’re big men and women… We have our big pants on,” he said. “Somebody else came along and drove up the price; that’s OK. It’s cool, that’s how the business works.”
Revolt CEO Keith Clinkscales said the Fuse negotiation “was educational. You get to see how distribution works, how the deals get done… I’m very glad we went through the process.”
Key to Revolt’s strategy is to be on every video-capable device in the world, given that smartphones and tablets are becoming the primary way young people communicate and engage in entertainment.
“Television is being redefined to this generation,” Combs said. “Television to them is not, quote unquote, sitting in their bedroom watching television. It’s on every device. Five years from now a brand like Revolt will be available on over 1 billion devices.”
The multiscreen approach is especially critical given that millennials are less likely to subscribe to pay TV, Clinkscales said: “They’re not cord-cutters — they are just not choosing cable.”
Revolt’s main competition could actually be digital players like Vevo and YouTube. Vevo, whose backers include Google, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, has approached pay-TV operators about distribution deals.
Combs compared Revolt at this stage to FM radio in its early days. “We’re just a baby. We’re just beginning, and we are serious about this,” he said.
Revolt has lined up several blue-chip advertisers, including Fiat, Anheuser-Busch, P&G, HP and Beats. Since Revolt TV launched on cable, some 100 artists have visited Revolt to make appearances and promote that to social media followers, Clinkscales said.