There have been a number of pioneering efforts going on for the past few years at enterprising local outlets around the country. North Carolina-based Capitol Broadcasting has been in the vanguard of putting its extra digital bandwidth to good use with dedicated sports channels. NBC affils banded together in the WeatherPlus venture. And NBC's Los Angeles O&O KNBC-TV has for more than a year been going without a net with its wonderfully uninhibited News Raw service, which offers C-SPAN-esque live feeds of news conferences and events a la the Phil Spector trial, as well as an insightful look at the newsroom's daily planning meeting. (Click here for a broadband peek).
But what caught my eye today were two separate news releases that hit the wire today about private companies partnering with major broadcast TV players to bring fresh programming services to the small but growing number of people who have digital TVs at home (whether they can pull in these burgeoning digital offshoot channels via their cable and satellite providers is a whole 'nother distribution conundrum, unfortunately.) It's always seemed to me that the surest sign of a gen-u-ine market forming is transactions between unrelated entities, and if it involves "Hawaii Five-O" reruns, well, so much the better.
Something called Retro Television Network has recently struck deals with a bunch of TV stations, including Young Broadcasting's KRON-TV San Francisco, to put its 24-hour menu of vintage TV reruns including the evergreen "Five-0" (whose enigmatic star, Jack Lord, of "Book 'em Dano" fame is pictured above), "Hogan's Heroes," "Streets of San Francisco," "Gomer Pyle, USMC," "Matlock," "Perry Mason" and "Mission: Impossible" on a digital channel. (Now that TV Land seems to be going more and more to original unscripted fare, this is a welcome trend. Let's just hope they're not using crappy prints.)
Capitol Broadcasting's outlet in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., has also signed up for Retro Television Network so I gotta believe it's real. Retro Television Network is owned by something called Equity Media Holdings Corp., based in Little Rock, Ark. The company didn't have much info about RTN on its corporate site, but it apparently struck a program licensing deal with CBS in March and hired former Paramount TV syndie sales exec Mark Dvornik as exec veepee of RTN in February. It also owns a bunch of Univision and Telefutura affiliate stations.
Separately, I noticed that LATV Networks, which broadcasts as LATV on Los Angeles' UHF station channel 57, has inked a deal with Post-Newsweek station group to invest in LATV as it focuses on a national rollout of its two-tongued music- and Hispanic lifestyle-oriented programming service. Post-Newsweek stations (owned by the parent company of the Washington Post) in top Hispanic markets like Miami, Houston and San Antonio have already been carrying LATV as a digital service for some time, and apparently, they like what they've seen so far.
There are more examples, fer instance, the Tribune station group's deal with the Tube music network, a 24-hour throwback to the early days of MTV and VH1. It's all starting to gel on the local dial, in more and more interesting ways, and it bodes well for the final leg of broadcast TV's digital conversion in 2009. For the uninitiated, Capitol Broadcasting has a good primer right here.