Don’t tell Evan Shapiro his new network is anything like Al Gore’s short-lived Current TV.
“The difference between Pivot and Current is the difference between a grape and a watermelon,” the forthcoming channel’s president said during an appearance at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour on Friday. Shapiro, who was recruited from IFC/Sundance, was on hand with a collection of Pivot talent to plug the younger-skewing network, which will launch Aug. 1.
Though Shapiro seems to bristle at the comparison, Pivot, like Current, has a mission to “entertain and inspire activism.” To hear him tell it, though, his network is prepared to go about courting the elusive 18-34 demo in a decidedly different manner. Pivot, part of Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media, has already ordered some 300 hours of original programming, which will include a wider array of genres, from comedy, reality shows and documentaries to a music variety show and an irreverent, interactive nightly news program. “It’s a completely different approach to television,” he said of what he defines as a general entertainment network. (In a previous interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Shapiro suggested that Current’s news and user-generated content was more “broccoli with bran muffins.”)
But it was Meghan McCain, star of what the exec billed as “a very f—ed up, weird reality talk show,” who made perhaps the most convincing argument for the differences between the two networks: “Current never would have hired me. I’m a Republican,” she said, noting that this is a network that she believes her father, Senator John McCain, could watch and enjoy, despite the fact that he is well outside the target audience. (According to McCain, he didn’t love it when she was on MSNBC.) In the outspoken blogger’s eyes, Pivot has an opportunity to fill a void that was filled by MTV when she was growing up. “I came to Pivot because I think there needs to be some kind of middle ground between the Kardashians and C-SPAN,” she said.
Among the other talent joining Shapiro, as he peddled Pivot, was Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is set to launch a variety show called HitRECord. Pressed on why he took his project to a not-yet-proven channel, the actor said that Pivot was “tapping into the changes that are happening,” noting how this generation is not okay with the media being a monologue. “Do you know any young people who just want to sit there and be quiet?” he asked rhetorically.
That desire for interactivity is the goal behind a news program like TakePart Live, co-hosted by Jacob Soboroff and Cara Santa Maria. “You’re going to be able to take part,” said Soboroff, who suggested that he and his co-host will be going after people and topics on either side of the aisle who are doing things that are “harmful” to the millennial generation and will offer ways for viewers to get involved. If viewers are interested in drones, for instance, the show will tell them who to talk to and have some of those people on the air. “People now more than ever want to get engaged,” he added. “They want to get involved, and they want to see change that they have affected themselves.”