Glenn Beck left his Fox News show over a year ago, built a studio in Dallas and started an online network he titled GBTV that charges for a subscriber fee for access just like a cable tv channel. It’s neither the branding nor the revenue model I would have suggested for him but it’s been wildly successful and will now appear on Dish Network.
I would have told Beck not to brand his new network with his name (he called it GBTV despite himself only being 2 of the 10 or so shows he was debuting) and to make content free and ad-supported, with premium content or archive access similar to Hulu if he wanted. Well, both turned out not to matter, as Beck gained more paid subscribers (over 300,000) than the OWN Network has watchers who tune in for free. With his deal with Dish, however, the network will wisely be rebranded as TheBlazeTV, taking the name of the news website he founded and not the founder himself.
Mr. Beck’s network is another way for Dish to distinguish itself with content that is different from that of its rivals, DirecTV and cable providers. This week, Dish announced a deal to be the first satellite provider of the college sports-related Pac-12 Networks. Separately, the company is in a protracted dispute with AMC Networks; AMC, IFC and WE tv have been off Dish’s channel lineup since July.
Joseph P. Clayton, Dish’s chief executive, said Dish had approached Mr. Beck’s company about possibly carrying a show about a year ago. TheBlaze TV will be the first online network to make the leap from the Internet to traditional TV on Dish. “The model works because it’s the right kind of programming — it’s topical, it’s entertaining and it has strong appeal to a devoted fan base,” Mr. Clayton said.
Dish is paying a small per-subscriber fee to carry TheBlaze.
David Shull, Dish’s senior vice president for programming, declined to comment on the details of the arrangement. “This is all about revenue potential, the strong demand we see for the service and the ability to offer our customers choice,” he said.
The network will be available to customers who have Dish’s 250-channel package; customers with lesser packages will be able to buy TheBlaze TV as a $5 monthly add-on, a step toward à la carte programming for people wanting more control over which channels they pay for.
Dish and other providers already sell channels like HBO and packages of sports channels separately. “You’ll probably hear more announcements to that end,” Mr. Shull said.
“TheBlaze has helped revolutionize television over the Internet, and now we are excited to bring the revolution back to traditional television,” Beck said in a statement.
The channel launches today at 5 p.m. ET, and will be available as a free preview for all Dish customers through Sept. 26, after which the channel will be available as part of a package, or a la carte for $5 a month.
“Many of the top names in cable and satellite TV have inquired about adding TheBlaze TV to their channel lineups,” said Chris Balfe, the president of Beck’s media company, Mercury Radio Arts, in a blog post. TheBlaze TV will be carried on cable and satellite networks nationwide, beginning today with Dish, said Balfe, but will still be available through an online subscription.
“Direct subscriptions continue to be a key part of our long-term strategy and we will continue to deliver our content over the Internet,” write The Blaze CEO Christopher Balfe in a blog post.
As a rule, the idea of direct subscriptions terrifies the cable industry. Distributors fear it because it enables cord-cutting; media companies loathe it because any move toward disintermediation threatens their current model, in which consumers have to pay for channels they don’t want in order to get the ones they do want. The result of this convergence of interests is an absurd situation in which Time Warner tells consumers it would rather endure rampant piracy than take their money for online-only access to HBO.
As a new network with no corporate parentage and no legacy restrictions, The Blaze can afford to negotiate deals that allow it to satisfy both pay-TV subscribers and cord-cutters. If enough networks like this emerge, it could pressure the Time Warners of the world into unlocking their self-administered handcuffs and give viewers an online-only option. If that happens, Beck will have truly helped create some of that thing he loves so much to talk about: freedom.
Beck will debate former NY Governor Elliot Spitzor on Dish Network in front of a live audience.
Here’s a sample of the kind of show Beck puts on on his channel (basically, it’s a lot of “our freedom is being taken away” and then a lot more of that. and then a little bit of other stuff sometimes):