TVGN is going for a major makeover. Eighteen months after the cable network, once known as the TV Guide Network, became a joint venture between Lionsgate and CBS, it is being rebranded as POP and redefined as “a multi-platform destination dedicated to celebrating the fun of being a fan” where “fans don’t sit at the outskirts of pop culture making snarky comments, they live right smack in the middle of it.”
POP will launch in the first quarter of 2015 with over 400 hours of original programming. A slate of new series and projects in development will be announced in the coming weeks. The first shows to fall into POP’s new direction are the previously announced Rock This Boat: New Kids On the Block, which follows die-hard fans of the famous boy band who join their idols on a cruise ship, and The Story Behind, which tells the story of how TV’s biggest shows got their start. Rock This Band is envisioned as a franchise, with other 1990s groups following NKOTB. That would fit into the demographic POP will be targeting, 35-40-year-old affluent, younger viewers who grew up in the 90s. POP’s president of entertainment and media Brad Schwartz calls that demo group “modern grownups,” who have “pushed up maturing” and often postponed marrying, “who have a lot of disposable income and still go to the gym, want to look good and want to watch the show everyone is talking about.”
The network brass considered both evolutionary and revolutionary approach for TVGN, the latter involving a complete makeover like NBCUniversal switching female-focused Style into male-oriented Esquire. In the end, the executives took the evolutionary route, staying close to the network’s pop culture roots. With TV Guide magazine and TVGuide.com going their separate ways and the network having no control over them, TVGN execs felt it didn’t make sense to keep the old name, which, even in its abbreviated form, is closely associated with the TV Guide brand. Here is how Schwartz described the inspiration for the new moniker: “When something stands out from the rest, it pops. It’s what everyone is talking about. It’s an exceptional talent. It’s a one-of-a-kind maverick. When something is so good that it earns a culture of fandom, that’s POP – and that’s what we want our channel to symbolize, a fresh new media personality that puts us firmly alongside the audience.”
While POP will stay rooted in pop culture, the network won’t be celebrity-driven, at least not in the conventional sense. “We respect talent over celebrity, we want to see the human side of celebrity, we are taking a more personal approach to celebrity,” Schwartz said. He compared the network’s take to that of Tonight Show‘s Jimmy Fallon who Schwartz said comes across as a fan when hosting celebrities on his show.
Shortly after CBS acquired 50% of TVGN in early 2013, partnering with Lionsgate, CBS programs started to migrate to the cable network. Big Brother’s After Dark companion show, which previously aired on Showtime, has been a big ratings success for TVGN as have been repeats of the network’s soaps The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. Those shows are expected to remain on POP, along with such acquisitions as 1990s staple 90210, marathons of CW series and TV Guide Network’s signature Red Carpet coverage.
TVGN is going into the rebrand with a reach of more than 80 million homes and the programming guide, once taking over most of the screen, gone completely. With a shot in the arm from CBS programming, TVGN became the fastest growing network in the country, albeit from a small base, delivering its biggest primetime audiences in more than 5 years. “POP is an exciting new chapter for a cable network that has made great progress and generated significant ratings momentum over the past year, said Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS Corp., and Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate.