CBS Corp. is taking a minority stake in AXS TV, a music-oriented cable channel owned by billionaire Mark Cuban and entertainment giant AEG. AXS programming includes concerts, comedy club acts, mixed-martial arts fighting and the news show “Dan Rather Reports.” The flagship show is “AXS Live,” which was designed to be an ESPN-like “SportsCenter” for pop culture and music. AEG’s LA HQ is AXS’s ops center.
CBS will receive an undisclosed interest in the HD channel in exchange for providing programming and marketing to the JV, said The LA Times.
With rights to such prominent events as the Grammy Awards, Broadway’s Tony Awards and the Academy of Country Music Awards, CBS can give AXS a front row seat and backstage access that other channels lack. Major programs will continue to air on CBS, but CBS plans to provide hours of additional coverage to its tentpole events with extras such as red carpet and backstage interviews.
CBS Corp. also agreed to promote the channel and its events on the CBS television network, TV stations, radio stations and even billboards. The reach of CBS will significantly raise the profile of the budding channel that is available in 38 million homes — about a third of the homes in the U.S. with televisions.
“This is really going to take AXS to the next level and really push us forward,” said Cuban, who will continue to lead the network as chief executive and president. “Our partnership with CBS will give us access to more content, more live events and much more promotional power.”
“Everyone wins,” CBS CEO Les Moonves said. “We are providing our programming and promotion. The intent of this channel is to do live programming and events and we have some of the biggest live events, including the Grammys and the Tonys. We have been looking to expand further into cable television and this is a step in the right direction. And we are not expending a lot of money to do it.”
AXS TV is a joint venture, formed last year between Cuban, who owns 50% of the channel, and AEG, Ryan Seacrest Media and Hollywood powerhouse talent firm Creative Artists Agency.
AXS, which launched in July and before AEG’s involvement was known as HDNet, is also available in standard definition. However the channel lacks distribution from several major cable operators, including Time Warner Cable. It is available in homes that receive TV service from DirecTV, Dish, Comcast Cable and Charter Communications. The CBS association is expected to give AXS a lift as the small cable channel tries to wrangle additional carriage from cable operators.
RBR-TVBR observation: While the CBS broadcast network is huge for CBS Corp. in revenues, the media company has limited holdings in cable, vs. other giants like Time Warner or Comcast/NBCU. It currently owns only Showtime and CBS Sports. This deal will give CBS a leg up in music, live events and younfer demos.