SXSWORLD

SXSWORLD February 2014

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Can Revolt TV Become Millennials' Music Television? M usic on television is in a curious state these days. Music-driven shows like Glee, The Voice and American Idol are some of the highest-rated on network television, yet music programming has been all but nonexistent on the MTV (aka Music Television) network for years. That's a gap that Sean "Diddy" Combs hopes to fill with Revolt TV, a music-focused digital cable television network he created in partnership with Comcast. It is a new venture for Combs, who had his biggest early success as producer/Svengali behind Notorious B.I.G. before going on to a recording and acting career of his own. But his main area of expertise remains hip-hop entrepreneur, and Revolt TV will bring Combs to South By Southwest this year to discuss his vision for the network – which he calls "the new number-one name in music." "The idea and inspiration came from when MTV and BET stopped playing music videos," Combs says. "Artists and fans lost their television and had no source to go to, no ESPN or CNN of music. So we want to make Revolt that and cover recordings and artists journalistically with insights and behind-the-scenes news, staying on top of new innovations and understanding that TV is about to be everywhere. In five years, Revolt will be available on a billion devices, and we're the new number-one name in music. Nobody covers music like we do on a real-time basis, and we're going to be on all the devices – mobile, tablet, television and the computer at your house." "Real-time" is a big part of the concept behind the network. As envisioned by Combs, Revolt TV will be the place to go to catch up on whatever is happening at any given moment. It will be a two-way conversation that both fans and viewers are part of. "We will use social media in ways that create conversations," Combs says. "A lot of the time, networks have to follow that. We want to create the conversation, make people feel involved. We'll cover the Drake show last night like you would an NBA game or an election in Iowa, and fans will give their opinions, too." Social media drives a lot of eyeballs to what's going on. So if something crazy hot is going on the network, kids will be tuned in on different devices, and we'll be the point of destination. If something is going viral, we're the place to go see it immediately in real time." 20 SXSWORLD / FEBRUARY 2014 Andre Harrell, vice chairman of Sean Combs Entertainment and Combs' longtime associate, adds that Revolt's focus will be squarely on the youth demographic. "There's a new generation with a different kind of youth culture," Harrell says. "Revolt is a voice for the new generation. There are new social-media technologies that make communication swifter and more global. Kids are aware at a heightened level, and we've created Revolt TV to be social by design." Eventually, crowdsourcing will be part of the programming mix, too. Viewer-generated content will show up on the air with regularity. "It may come from a kid in Iowa, a girl in Africa," Combs says. "Kids right now have movie-ready devices. Imagine what it will be like in five years. Other networks are just covering American artists, but we cover every country. We don't want to wait for YouTube or trending topics. We want to get them and see them on the bubble, before they sign. That's what we support." One thing you won't see appearing on Revolt, however, is Combs himself. At age 44, he is well beyond the demographic that the network is going for, so he plans to stay behind the scenes. "Nah, I won't be visible at all on Revolt," he says. "It's by and for artists and fans. That's who I want on there – people with passion and commitment, who are fans even if they don't have a journalistic background. It will look different from any other network. If we're making it for millennials, they need to be running the company. They understand it better than me; I'm following their lead. If you're young and following music, you want to see someone like yourself up there, another 18-year-old. That's who we'll be." It has been more than three years since Combs last released an album, 2010's Last Train to Paris. He does not have any new music of his own planned, but he is in two movies opening this spring. One is a "so quick that if you blink you may not see me" cameo in the Kevin Costner football comedy-drama Draft Day, playing an agent; and the other is as himself in Muppets Most Wanted. The latter is the one nearest to his heart. "When I got my star in Hollywood, I was really careful about who I wanted to be next to," Combs says. "And they put me between Kermit the Frog and Carey Grant – hell motherfucking yeah! That's surrounded with greatness there. The Muppet brand has changed all our lives and to be considered C R E D I T: T R AV I S S H I N N by David Menconi

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