March 5, 2007
Time Warner Cable Goes Publik
By Shirley Brady
On Feb. 14 Time Warner Cable San Antonio offered a Valentine’s Day gift to local music lovers: Publik Music on Demand, a free VOD channel that soft-launched in TW’s Austin division last March before moving to Waco. Next stop: the big D. "We’ve been told we’ll be airborne in Dallas soon," says Dan Crewe, CEO of the Portland, Me.-based independent music programmer.
The channel offers taped performances and interviews from a roster of 19 musicians not repped by a major record label. "We film them performing and interview them for VOD and give a taste of their work on our website," says Crewe. The performers — expanding to 50 this year — range from ’60s teen icon Lesley Gore to emerging talent.
"The pitch of the channel is VH1 Behind the Music meets Home Shopping Network meets Biography Channel," says Will Kreth, Time Warner Cable’s director of ITV product management. Kreth helped Crewe and Publik Music producer Patrick Tourville craft their business plan as an unpaid adviser (with no sway on carriage, he notes).
"There’s a great opportunity on VOD using vignettes of these selected artists to showcase artists who’ve been honing their craft for some time in the whole alt-country or alt-adult music scene," Kreth notes. "There’s definitely a demographic of music lovers being underserved, with the majority of customers buying CDs being an older demographic."
The musicians don’t pay for the estimated $15,000 it costs to produce their on-demand showcase. With Publik Music’s tagline of "Get to know the artist before you buy," Time Warner’s digital subs are encouraged to visit publikmusic.com after watching the VOD channel to purchase CDs or MP3 files. Publik Music splits the proceeds of sales with the performers. Crewe also is pursuing national advertisers to sponsor factoid "bubbles" (a la another VH1 series, Pop-Up Video) during each segment to help underwrite the costs of production.
He credits former Austin division president Tom Kinney, recently promoted to SVP of customer care for Time Warner Cable corporate, and Kreth, the Austin division’s former director of interactive services, with helping the channel gain such success in its first year.
Kreth certainly understands the value of VOD and independent music. A musician and producer in his spare time, last year he founded MediaGroove, a New York-based indie music label that has its first release this year.