Participant Introduces 'Pivot' TV Cable Network, First Programming Slate

Joseph Gordon-Levitt TIFF - P 2013
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Joseph Gordon-Levitt TIFF - P 2013

The channel will start out with a reach of 40 million subscribers and also aim towards aggressive digital distribution of shows featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Meghan McCain and William Shakespeare.

Participant Media has announced that its new cable TV network will be called lower-case "pivot," and has introduced its initial programming slate aimed at idealistic millennials.

The announcement came at an Upfront presentation in New York City, where Participant CEO Jim Berk described pivot as the cable channel that would be aimed at "getting people to think," with a blend of "social impact and commercial sustainability."

Participant, which produced such films as Lincoln, The Help and An Inconvenient Truth, hopes to introduce its new cable network on Aug. 1 to a target demographic of those 18-34 years old, estimated to number around 85 million in the U.S. Pivot will start out with a reach of 40 million subscribers.

Among the original shows that will be carried on pivot will be HitRECord on TV!, a variety show that will star co-creator Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Raising McCain, a blend of reality TV and talk show from Meghan McCain with Go Go Luckey Entertainment; WILL, a stylized period drama based on the life of William Shakespeare from Craig Pearce (Moulin Rouge, Great Gatsby); and Jersey Strong, from Peabody Award-winners Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin, which is described as emphasizing the reality in reality TV.

"This is something that is personal to me, and I didn't want to compromise," said Levitt at the Upfront, describing why he joined up with the new cable network. "These guys got it. They weren't just interested in me because I was in Batman."

The channel will also feature a daily talk show called Take Part Live, which will also stress Participant's commitment towards blending social action and entertainment. (The company was founded by Jeffrey Skoll, the first president of eBay.) The network is also working in tandem with Rolling Stone magazine on programming that will explore the mind of millennials.

Besides original programming, pivot will also run old episodes of Friday Night Lights, Farscape and Little Mosque on the Prairie (a Canadian show that has never aired in the U.S.).

With an emphasis on a younger viewership and mixing things up by providing socially conscious programming, pivot might face uncomfortable comparisons with Current TV, the Al Gore-started network that also attempted to deliver news and variety for a digitally connected audience before being sold to Al Jazeera.

At its Upfront presentation, network president Evan Shapiro defended the audience that pivot hopes to attract. "They are known as spoiled and entitled, but I don't think that is true," he said. "They are changing."

Pivot's slogan is "It's Your Turn."

The network is mindful of the idea that younger generations are viewed as not subscribing to pay TV, cutting their cords and relying heavily on DVRs. Shapiro gave statistics to counter those perceptions, saying that a good majority of millennials are still relying upon cable television, and most are watching live programming in the interest of communicating socially online. It's also pointed out that MPVDs need to actively hold onto younger audiences if they hope to survive long-term.

That said, Shapiro also says that pivot plans to launch with the most aggressive set of "TV Everywhere" rights and that it wishes to be the first cable TV network that offers a broadband-only option for a fee. He considers this to be "landmark," saying that pivot will be "distributing disruptively" to the estimated 10 million homes that have broadband access but no television.

"Traditional TV viewing is by far the dominant way people enjoy television programming, and pivot will compete for TV traditionalists every day and night," said Shapiro. "We also want to serve Broadband viewers. Both communities are MVPD customers. This summer, for the first time, both groups will be able to get this new channel, and pivot will be the first channel which satellite, telco and cable companies can offer to all of their customers.”

Twitter: @eriqgardner