Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
The fledgling cable network Pivot — launching in a reported 40 million-plus homes next Thursday (the 32nd anniversary of the launch of MTV) — took on the difficult task of convincing a group of largely middle-aged journalists at TCA that they should take seriously a general entertainment service aimed squarely at the millennial (age 18-34) generation. Pivot certainly has ambitious plans, with a programming slate anchored by more than 300 hours of original programming for its first year. That includes an original scripted comedy (Please Like Me, created by 25-year-old comedian Josh Thomas); an original variety show (HitRECord, from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and and Brian Graden); and a docu-talk series exec produced and hosted by Meghan McCain, John McCain’s daughter.
The critics present had several questions, notably how Pivot differs from Current TV, which many pointed out launched with a similar pitch. The network’s president Evan Shapiro, vehemently disagreed with the Current comparison. “Last time I checked, Current didn’t have a scripted comedy or a music variety show,” he said. “The difference between Pivot and Current is like the difference between a crepe and a watermelon. We have comedy. We have music variety. We have talk. We have reality. We have great documentary premieres. We start with entertainment and then we hope to spark conversation and inspire action. Current had none of those things from what I recall.” The outspoken McCain also had a ready response for the Current TV comparison question. “Let me tell you, Current never would have hired me,” she said. “I’m a Republican. Just start there.” The idea of Pivot is also to drive a more interactive and participatory viewer experience given the youth of its target demo. It already has pulled off the trick of announcing a series renewal — for Please Like Me — before the network has even launched.
Perhaps a key question about Pivot, however, may be that considering its young adult target, why it’s launching as a television network at all rather than disseminating the information exclusively over the Internet. Shapiro countered that young people “are pluralistic in their viewing habits. They’ll watch on television, they’ll watch online, they’ll watch on the iPhone, they’ll watch anywhere as long as it fits their lifestyle.” He maintained that the future of television “is every platform, not one platform or another. One of the powerful things we want to do is tap into this amazing cultural currency for television that’s called FOMO. It stands for Fear Of Missing Out. If you watch your Twitter feed on any Sunday night, you know what I’m talking about.”