Participant Media Shutting Down Its Pivot TV Channel (EXCLUSIVE)

Pivot TV Logo
Courtesy of Pivot

Participant Media plans to shut down its flagging cable TV outlet, Pivot, as the multi-media company continues a makeover that began last fall with the hiring of CEO David Linde.

The channel that created shows like Joseph Gordon Levitt’s crowd-sourced “HitRecord” will go dark some time in the late fall or winter, a decision the company plans to announce Wednesday morning.

Participant founder Jeff Skoll had invested well over $200 million to form the new linear television “network,” but it launched right at a time that viewers — particularly its target audience of millennials — were fleeing traditional television for online alternatives.

Some of the channel’s programs won critical favor, like “Fortitude,” a drama about the oddball denizens of a town in the Arctic,  “Please Like Me,” an Australian relationship dramedy and “Secret Lives of Americans,” a reality-style show with everyday people exposing their secrets via cameras, cell phones and laptops. But Pivot never found a mass audience or made a significant dent in the popular conscience. Parent company Participant has gotten much more traction with feature and documentary films it financed — including “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Syriana,” “Lincoln” and “The Help.”

“We must decide how to allocate resources to achieve the company’s objectives,” Linde said in an interview. “We believe in our ability to create compelling content, and to support our mission we want to expand our output to ensure that we have a steady drumbeat of content available to a global audience.” That content could be distributed via Participant’s own digital platform or sold to other cable and streaming outlets.

Related Content Former Participant CEO Jim Berk Joins PodcastOne

Participant will let the channel go dark, just 3 1/2 years after it paid an unknown amount to buy the Doumentary Channel and the emerging cable network Halogen TV to create pivot. The fact that there is no buyer for the channel underscores the extreme pressure on niche cable channels to survive in a fragmented TV world. Smaller outlets that lack must-have programming are increasingly struggling to hold on to traditional MVPD carriage deals.

Linde said the competitive landscape for a stand-alone, linear TV operation had simply become too difficult. He noted that the reduction in big MVPDs from six to four had reduced the leverage for independent cable operators. The flight of subscribers from cable made attracting an audience even more difficult. Even some of those sticking with linear television have done so via “skinny” bundles that typically exclude obscure outlets like Pivot.  All those demand challenges come as the supply of quality programming has skyrocketed in cost, given the fierce competition in the multi-channel, multi-platform universe.

The company did not reveal how many employees would be laid off as a result of the Pivot shutdown. Management was scheduled to meet with the station’s staff Wednesday to provide details.

“Looking at the environment, we asked ourselves, ‘Can we compete in this market as a standalone cable television network?’” Linde said. “The answer was that we would not have been sufficiently competitive to achieve our larger ambition.” One-time eBay chief executive Skoll created Participant in 2004 with an eye toward promoting the social good, along with making a profit.

Linde said that the impending renewal of some of those deals did not influence the shutdown decision. Over the year that Pivot’s fate was being decided, Participant hired a consultant to lead a search for a strategic partner, in the way that BBC America struck a deal with AMC Networks. But little-known Pivot was not seen as enough of a lure among potential partners such as Discovery Communications, A+E Networks and 21st Century Fox.

Although it became apparent that investing in content was a smarter play than maintaining a legacy linear outlet, Linde said he and Skoll still found it hard to put an end to Pivot. “It’s always a difficult decision to make any time you have to part ways with good people” the CEO said.

In a prepared statement, Linde sought to deflect any of the onus for the shutdown from Pivot’s employees. “The network’s real achievements can be wholly attributed to the Pivot team, of whom we are incredibly proud,” he said. “This very talented group’s commitment to our broader mission has been absolute, and we are very grateful for their significant contributions to the organization.”

Cynthia Littleton contributed to this story.

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  1. fran says:

    I just recently like last started watchin pivot . I was in shock about the food chain programs. Im changing my choices of what I eat. More vegetarian n less meat n only organic thanks for that. U hv so much 2teach consumers wish i had know about u sooner.
    Today its no longer available. Im saddened by that.

  2. Matthew Kleinmann says:

    I enjoyed Pivot and I am really sad to see it go. I wonder at how much of a loss all of the religious channels run, or how much cash all of the infomercial channels rake in. You would think that generating zero new content and only buying quirky lesser rated content that the operating costs would be on the low side.

  3. Edward Sloan says:

    This is what happens when you try to use a single linear target to acquire an audience.

  4. Ancho Chili says:

    Too bad. I really liked Fortitude.

  5. SiNN17 says:

    I can’t believe i no longer get pivot on direct tv & especially am bummed since it was where I watched all my favorite shows from Veronica Mars to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.. not to mention that I was really looking forward to the season premiere of Please Like Me coming soon too!! 😞

  6. Susanna Hedger says:

    Even though Buffy the vampire slayer had been on TV. For many years….I have alot of friends and myself that watch this. What would be even greater is to follow up w Angel big fans of this show. Hope to see it come back following Angel! Good luck! Susanna Hedger m77mato@yahoo.com

  7. Antonio says:

    I am surprise that this network “Pivot” it’s getting shutting down by October 31st but I am wondering is that this network going replace by different network by CEO? This network is not bad but it been this long does mean can improve with a different kind of genre of network or brand new company by the same owner.

  8. DeadSurvivor says:

    Very Unfortunate. I Enjoy The Channel And Tune Into The Channel Multiple Times Weekly.

  9. Great, now where can i watch Veronica Mars?

  10. Jim Hughes says:

    It wasn’t advertised very well, I never new Pivot existed till I saw Fortitude on Amazon and Please Like Me on HULU. I like those shows and hope a US channel picks them up.

  11. Tori Manofsky says:

    Pivot is the only channel on tv that brings awareness and change to a society that is lied to on a continual basis by mainstream media that chooses to keep people in the dark so that those at the top may reap the monetary benefits by raping the planet of every resource left on the planet and in the process destroying everything beautiful that the planet has to offer. It is essential that channels like pivot remain on TV. for the future of the planet. Perhaps they can start donation drives similar to what PBS has…maybe there would be wealthy donors that would contribute to the channel that understand the notion that it is important for the truth to be told for the survival of our planet. The channel could also sell dvds of their shows on climate change, plastics, animal rights and the dangers they face. They could also sell books, brochures and merchandise to spread the word. There is always a solution to every problem.

  12. RUBEN REYES says:

    SO SAD TO SEE PIVOT GO OFF THE AIR . LOVE THIS CHANNEL AND ALL THEY PROGRAM. LIKE FARCAPE , BUFFY, MANY OTHER. I HOPE RECONSIDER . MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND I LOVE PIVOT. FROM NEW YORK CITY

  13. Ach I am/was looking forward to seeing more of Fortitude.

    • Kenneth G says:

      Same here! Very atmospheric, and great use of location. Maybe either Pivot or Fortitude will survive- Netflix, Amazon or Hulu produced…?

  14. EricJ says:

    I remember seeing a few Pivot series in focus surveys, and they were actually pretty good, for a current young-millennial take on less-publicized new world issues. (Even though “Participant Media” has now become self-righteous box-office poison whenever it’s attached to a political or Spielberg movie.)
    And the reason I say I saw them there, and not on cable, is because Cable Is Not the Future, and even less so for new startup channels.

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