Concert giant AEG is teaming up with Ryan Seacrest, Mark Cuban and Hollywood powerhouse talent firm Creative Artists Agency to launch a pop culture and music cable channel that is expected to debut in June.
Called AXS, the cable network primarily will carry live programming aimed at entertainment aficionados. It will include a heavy diet of music and concert coverage as well as lifestyle programming. Los Angeles-based AEG's downtown L.A. Live complex will serve as the network's on-air home.
"The industry in Los Angeles is a sport," Cuban said of the channel's plans to cover show business on a 24/7 live basis. The network's flagship show is to be called "AXS Live," which Cuban described as a "'SportsCenter' for pop culture and music."
AEG and Seacrest have been mulling over the creation of a cable channel for well over a year but were unable to get anything off the ground. Last fall, Cuban approached AEG about converting his cable channel HDNet into AXS.
For AEG, the alliance gives it an additional platform to promote its live entertainment business. The concert promoter and arena owner has a library of concerts, and its arenas are also used for high-profile events that can provide content for the new channel.
"This is about taking all of our assets and putting them into a distribution opportunity to bring the live experience to the fans," AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke said.
Seacrest, who has a popular morning radio show and hosts Fox's "American Idol," will not have an on-air role on AXS. But the deal does give him another playground for his production company, Ryan Seacrest Productions, whose offerings include "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution."
Interestingly, AXS seems aimed at competing primarily with E!, the cable network owned by Comcast Corp. that also focuses on entertainment and is home to much of Seacrest's productions.
For Cuban, teaming with AEG and re-branding HDNet to AXS will presumably make it easier to get wider distribution for the network. The channel currently reaches about 27 million homes, and satellite broadcaster Dish Network has already agreed to add about 10 million subscribers to the channel after HDNet reboots this summer.
"Everybody is going to bend over backwards to work with AEG," Cuban said.
HDNet carries a hodgepodge of programming, including news reports from former CBS anchor Dan Rather and mixed martial arts fights. Cuban said that Rather's program and the fights would move to the new channel, but that some of HDNet's more adult fare, including "Girls Gone Wild," would be dropped.
"Anything that was TV-MA goes away," Cuban said, referring to the television industry's rating for mature adult content.
Although AEG is one of the largest concert promoters in the world and owns several major arenas including Staples Center and the O2 arena in London, Leiweke was careful to not say the company would be offering a lot of live concerts for AXS.
But AEG does have a vast library of concerts and can use the channel to market its tours and events.
Leiweke said AXS would also be open to working with Live Nation and other concert promoters.
"We not only would welcome Live Nation; I would hope they would be a part of this from a content standpoint," he said.
Terms of the partnership were not disclosed, but Leiweke said CAA and Seacrest were making equity investments in AXS.