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High Hopes: Pot-Centric Channel 420TV to Light Up Later This Year

Weed fans are about their get their own digital TV network.

As cannabis consumption becomes an increasingly mainstream activity, newly formed venture 420 Entertainment Group is gearing up to debut 420TV, a free, sponsor-supported online video channel to be stocked with scripted and unscripted shows covering marijuana culture, news and entertainment.

The name, of course, is a reference to “4:20” — the time of day pot enthusiasts have long observed for toking up. That’s now extended to April 20, celebrated around the world as Weed Day.

The joint (ahem) venture partners behind 420 Entertainment are OwnZones Media Network, an over-the-top technology and content distributor; Genesis Media, whose investors include the principals behind some the U.S.’s largest medical marijuana cultivation and distribution companies (not to be confused with New York-based video-ad analytics vendor Genesis Media); and Alex Nahai, a former Hollywood agent who runs his own entertainment and branding company. OwnZones, which is leading the JV, declined to identify the backers of the Genesis Media that it’s working with on 420 Entertainment.

The 420TV channel, currently slated to hit in the third quarter of 2017, will feature original episodic series, as well as long- and short-form news, information and entertainment content focusing on all things cannabis. The JV’s partners hope to attract a diverse group of viewers, ranging from millennials to Baby Boomers who are either curious about or have adopted the cannabis lifestyle, said OwnZones founder and CEO Dan Goman.

But why? There’s a ton of pot-related content online already, as well as on TV — including Viceland’s Weed Week programming block this week, HBO comedy “High Maintenance” and Netflix’s forthcoming Kathy Bates-starrer “Disjointed” from Chuck Lorre.

Goman says 420TV will stand out by serving an audience that’s never had a video channel fully dedicated to pot, and he noted that all content will be shot in 4K Ultra HD format.

“The difference is that this will be comprehensive, professionally produced premium content, presenting all different viewpoints,” Goman said. “It’s not going to be some guy in his mom’s basement smoking a joint talking about how great the weed is. It’s a broad-based, mainstream approach to subject matter that until recently was taboo.”

Doug Lee, OwnZone’s programming head and former exec at HBO, MGM and News Corp, will oversee the original programming lineup and manage the day-to-day business of 420TV. At launch, 420TV is aiming to have about 10 series, with dozens of hours of original programming. Other content categories in development include pot-related fashion, comedy, music and animation as well as acquired feature films, documentaries, music and live-streaming events.

Shows currently being developed for 420TV include: “Pot Cast,” a daily news program covering the legal marijuana industry; “Medical Marijuana Miracles,” true stories of real people who have used medical marijuana to treat symptoms and diseases; “Marijuana Moguls,” profiling emerging entrepreneurs in the cannabis biz; and “Cannabis 411,” exploring topics ranging from how pot is grown to how to consume it.

“Don’t think of this as ‘The Stoner Channel,’” Goman said. “It will appeal to everybody.”

The move to launch 420TV comes as more U.S. states have legalized medical and recreational marijuana use, including California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. “Now is a perfect time to capture the zeitgeist,” said Goman.

Some details of 420TV are still, um, hazy. While the channel will launch initially on OwnZones.com and its mobile apps, Goman said it will expand through other internet distributors, and potentially linear TV networks and cable operators. “We are talking to various networks and different digital platforms around the world to close deals,” he said.

420 Entertainment expects to produce three-fourths of the channel’s content in-house, with the rest acquired from media partners. The free service will be sponsored; Goman said that in addition to marijuana-industry players other non-pot brands have expressed interest in partnering with 420TV.

Nahai, who formerly worked at UTA and WME, is on board to help land marquee talent for 420TV’s shows. “The 4K video-on-demand service is just the beginning – we intend to establish 420TV as a franchise brand for multiple lines of related businesses,” said Nahai, who is CEO of Alex Nahai Enterprises (ANE).

For OwnZones, 420TV represents a consumer-facing media brand that will leverage all the pieces of its white-label video distribution business, which counts such clients as Scripps Networks Interactive and Magnolia Pictures. “This is our first project in the content space as extensive and significant in cost, production and reach,” Goman said.

OwnZones Media Network, based in Beverly Hills, has 75 employees worldwide. The company is backed by individual investors and has raised more than $27 million to date, according to CrunchBase.

For the record, Goman said he is not a recreational pot user. “For me this is all new. I’m a clean-lifestyle fanatic,” he said, but added, “I am open to learning.”

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