TV Guide Network to Rebrand as POP

Eyeing an early 2015 rollout, the new network will have a focus on fandom

TVGN is about to get a new look — and a new name.

The joint venture between Lionsgate and CBS Corp. will be relaunching as POP, and will have a renewed focus on fandom. It's a big move for the channel, formerly known as TV Guide Network, as it severs any lingering ties to unaffiliated companies and TV Guide Magazine, and marks the end of an in-depth yearlong internal review.

Brad Schwartz, who was appointed president of TVGN in April 2013, will stay on and oversee POP as its president of entertainment and media. The rebranded channel is eyeing an early 2015 rollout, with January as their current target.

When it debuts, POP will feature an aggressive slate of more than 400 hours of programming, made up of syndication acquisitions (Beverly Hills, 90210; 7th Heaven), new projects and current series (Rock the Boat: New Kids on the Block, The Story Behind, Big Brother: After Dark).

"Whether you have a passion for Comic-Con or Coachella or Scandal, whatever it is, there’s a spirit behind what’s causing you to be that fan. We want to take inspiration from the way fans and talent speak, and celebrate it," Schwartz tells The Hollywood Reporter. A development slate of forthcoming projects, which he says could include entertainment news and aftershows, will be unveiled in the coming weeks. It's not yet clear whether POP will veer into scripted.

As far as the new network's target viewer, Schwartz labels them "the modern grown-up," someone within the advertiser-desired 18-49 and 25-54 demographics, who is socially engaged and connected and who has a thirst for pop culture. Settling on POP as the name to lure them was the result of a lengthy process that began last year.

"We spent a lot of time reflecting and figuring out who we are and what our personality is," Schwartz says, explaining that a name like Fan TV felt "too on-the-nose." "We liked a short word — a word everyone has a relationship with. If you're younger, you might think of pop music. If you're older, you might think of it as the pop generation. Whatever it is, there's a positive connotation with the word 'pop.' "

The decision to actively cater to properties and brands that have cult audiences — think Twilight (Twihards), New Kids on the Block (Blockheads) and Community (Human Beings) — reflects Schwartz's belief that there's significant value in creating room on the TV dial for such a destination. To be sure, TVGN previously dedicated parts of its schedule to fan-centric content, with series like inFanity (2005-10), a behind-the-scenes look at top scripted shows; TV Watercooler (2006-09), a weekly recap show highlighting buzzworthy moments; and Reality Chat (2006-09), exclusively spotlighting popular unscripted TV programs.

The unveiling of POP comes at a time of substantial ratings growth for the still-niche network, which has seen its viewership hit five-year highs. Year-over-year, primetime viewership is up 24 percent. Like TVGN, which CBS acquired a 50 percent stake in in early 2013, POP will be available in more than 80 million U.S. households. Noted CBS CEO Leslie Moonves and Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer in a joint statement: “POP is an exciting new chapter for a cable network that has made great progress and generated significant ratings momentum over the past year. Our new brand not only positions the channel for continued growth but reflects its identity, focus and fan base."

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