Is it 1981 all over again?
Monday marks the launch (in select markets) of Revolt TV, a new startup network fromSean "Diddy" Combs that promises to be all music, all the time. Sound familiar? For viewers of a certain age, it should. The programming model as described by Revolt executives sounds like a carbon copy of MTV in its first incarnation, with round-the-clock broadcasts of music videos (both new and old), music news, artist interviews and live performances.
"There's a real want, I think, in the consumer space for a music video experience sort of like it used to be. And I don't think it's altogether nostalgic," music video historian Stephen Pitalo tells TVGuide.com. "I think it's a joy that the radio used to have. There's something to the discovery that was present when MTV first came out, and one of the great things that happened to popular music because of MTV was exposure of artists from every genre. ... People like what they like, but they also want to discover things. One of the great things about MTV was that it was just FM radio on TV. And I think that can still work."
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To target younger viewers, the other equally important focus for Revolt will be a social media component, allowing interactivity between the on-air personalities and the audience (as well as sometimes the artists themselves) via Twitter, Skype, Facebook and other platforms.
"I think part of what's going to be attractive about Revolt is, it's almost like MTV was our first wife and she changed so much that she broke our heart and went for somebody with more money," says Pitalo, who hosts a monthly event in New York City that showcases music videos. "So this is the second wife. She reminds us what we fell in love with in the first place."
According to Val Boreland, Revolt's executive vice president of programming, production and strategy, that's a perfect analogy.
"Revolt is the trophy wife. We are the younger, shinier new wife," Boreland agrees. "You still have that nice connection with the old wife, but ... all the things that they promised they were going to do, they're not doing that anymore. Back in the day, the M in the MTV stood for music. A lot of millennials don't even realize that."
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But with competitors like Fuse and VH1 on broadcast, as well as online music video platforms like Vevo, is there room for one more? The executive team at Revolt thinks so.
"We're going to be the new number one name in music," Boreland promises. "I think that really for young people, we are going to speak to them in a way that those other networks do not, and they are going to connect in a way that they can't with the other networks."
At its launch, Revolt TV will be available to Time Warner Cable and Comcast customers in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The hope is to eventually expand into other markets.
"A lot of people like to talk about how the music industry is dying. It's actually booming. The digital era has made it explode," Boreland says. "I think the accessibility of music has just made music that much more important. ... Sometimes people like to describe it as being as strong as religion or politics, that music is as important to them. So I think that with that void that was left by some of the networks kind of backing away from programming music on TV, it makes it the perfect opportunity to step up."
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Here are five things to expect from Revolt TV:
1. A little something for everybody: Revolt's music programming will span all genres and levels of popularity. "It's the biggest artists you can name, and then the smallest artists that you wouldn't even know," according to Boreland. "I think that that's the beauty of it." That will include everything from "a guy who plays a cello at a taco truck on the street" to the number-one selling artist of the week. Adds CEO Keith Clinkscales: "We're building this as a music network, not an urban music network. We're going to make sure we cover all music, from hip-hop to R&B to alternative to rock, electronic dance music ... and all the other different things that come out of the great, wonderful world of music. If it bangs with young people, we will be there."
2. Original programming: For the first couple of months, Revolt will feature introductory programming, focusing on music videos and music news. Beginning in January, the network will start to unveil some of its signature shows, including "Revolt Live," which will air several times a day. "It will be taking the concepts that we're building on now and putting them into an hour show," Boreland explains. "So you'll have your news, you'll have your social media, you'll have your music videos, live performances, interviews with artists, all within that hour. And that's going to be that place that kids are going to know they want to watch, because they know that there's going to be something there that they have to see."
3. The return of VJ celebrities? At the height of the MTV era, some of the on-air personalities had larger fanbases than the artists they were interviewing. (Let's not forget that Carson Daly got his start on Total Request Live!) After a global open casting call that generated more than 15,000 responses, Revolt is picking the cream of the crop to host its programming. On-air personalities (some of which were chosen through a nationwide casting call) will host programs focusing on genres like alternative/indie rock, EDM and hip-hop.
4. Interaction: If viewers want to watch music videos, can't they just do it online? Yes and no. "You can do a search on the Internet and watch a video, but then it ends there. Where is the extension of the conversation? Where is the analysis, the curation?" Boreland says. "That's what we have to offer. ... It's a level of interaction, interactivity that you can't experience on the Internet."
5. Citizen journalism: Part of the network's social media aspect will be a hotline where fans can call or Skype in to report breaking news. "'I was at The Weeknd concert andDrake just walked onstage. It was unbelievable. The crowd went wild,'" Boreland says, by way of example. "That's how we're going to be so current and relevant. We are going to have reporters everywhere, because all our fans are going to be reporters for us. So we're going to really program at the speed of social media. It's going to be an advantage for us."
Check out a teaser video for Revolt below. Do you think the world needs Revolt TV?