Ryan Seacrest in Talks to Take Over VH1 Soul Network (Exclusive)
Ryan Seacrest is getting that much closer to adding his own cable network to his media empire.
The multihyphenate, along with entertainment giant AEG, is in talks to potentially take over MTV Networks net VH1 Soul, according to sources close to the situation. Talks are in an advanced stage, insiders say, but the deal—being brokered by CAA—is not done and could still fall apart. Seacrest's reps declined to comment.
The news comes nearly a year after The Hollywood Reporter first reported that Seacrest was teaming with the two companies to launch a network, described then as a music, pop culture and lifestyle-oriented channel. It would likely pull additional programming from AEG's worldwide concert and live venue assets (including the Staples Center, L.A. Live and London's The 02), and would not be seen as a direct competitor to NBCUniversal cable network E!, where Seacrest has had a long-term deal.
VH1 Soul, a spinoff of MTV Networks' VH1 channel, is a little-watched digital cable and satellite network aimed at fans of soul and R&B, according to the Viacom website.
The decision to rebrand an already established channel rather than attempt to secure distribution relationships with cable and satellite companies for an entirely new net is a shrewd one in today's increasingly crowded landscape. (Though if Oprah Winfrey's recent viewership woes at OWN --formerly Discovery Health-- are any indication, the former is hardly a sure thing.)
In an April profile, Seacrest told THR that any network deal made would not result in "a Ryan Seacrest channel," the way Winfrey's is branded OWN. "It will not be branded with my name or my face, which many people will be happy about," he quipped at the time.
Rather, this next step is seen more as a business venture for a man whose budding empire already includes his decade-long hosting gig on Fox's American Idol, E! News, his On Air with Ryan Seacrest radio program and producing the Keeping Up with the Kardashian franchise. Earlier this year, THR dubbed him "the new king of reality TV."
If a deal closes, Seacrest would serve as an influential partner, offering his producing skills, his connections to talent and potentially some on-air contributions, though sources say the role is yet to be totally fleshed out.
Seacrest's annual pre-tax earnings already exceed $55 million thanks to his many projects and enviable rolodex, leaving executive types such as NBCUniversal chief executive Steve Burke to wax on about his talents. "It's rare to find someone who excels both in front of and behind the camera, but that certainly applies to Ryan," Burke told THR earlier this year.