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Pop Cabler Will Add 8 Million Homes, Defying TV Gravity

Pop president Brad Schwartz had some surprising news during the channel’s luncheon session at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday. The entertainment cabler, a joint venture of CBS and Lionsgate, will grow its subscriber base by about 8 million homes in the next few months.

That’s a good-sized gain for a long-established channel that already reaches 80 million homes. It bucks the conventional wisdom that MVPDs are looking to slash programming costs costs by dropping niche channels. Pop, which focuses on all things pop culture, is launching this year on Cablevision, Wide Open West and AT&T’s U-verse.

More impressive, the channel’s affiliate sales are handled in-house by a dedicated team, meaning they didn’t rely on the negotiating power of Pop’s parent companies.

Schwartz’s credits Pop’s status as a solo entity as a plus in distribution deals. MVPDs appreciate having a distribution conversation that only involves one network, compared to its larger rivals. Schwartz maintained that Pop ranks high on the list of channels that offer the best value to operators because its subscriber fees are low and ratings are growing. In 2015, Pop averaged about 170,000 viewers in primetime.

“We’re not an expensive channel and we deliver a premium product,” Schwartz said. “When you talk to us about being part of a skinny bundle, you can only deal with us. You don’t have to consider 10 other channels.”

The Cablevision launch is particularly vital because so many execs in the advertising biz live on Long Island, the bedrock of Cablevision’s service area. “A lot of our advertisers haven’t been able to watch the channel,” Schwartz said. With Cablevision in place, Pop will have solid distribution in the top 10 TV markets.

At TCA, Schwartz talked up Pop’s growing roster of original series and the talent that has been drawn to the cabler, formerly known as TV Guide Network. The latest was unveiled Tuesday morning. The backstage scripted comedy, “Traci From Nightcap,” stars Ali Wentworth as a producer on a late-night TV series.

Schwartz joined the precursor of Pop as head of programming in April 2013. He was upped to president status two years later. According to Schwartz, the channel’s financial performance has turned around on his watch. It was losing money at the time he joined but has since turned the corner into profitability. And it is coming off nine consecutive quarters of ratings growth, he said.

(Pictured: Ali Wentworth and Brad Schwartz)

 

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