Sean "P. Diddy" Combs consults Oprah, cable TV veterans to create an ESPN for young urban music fans, Revolt TV
LOS ANGELES -- He’s created his own record label, worked with the biggest names in hip hop, guest acted on CSI: Miami and amassed a sprawling network of businesses leaving his net worth pegged somewhere at $550 million.
But when star producer/artist/hype machine Sean “Puff Daddy/P. Diddy” Combs faced a roomful of journalists here today touting his new cable channel for young urban music fans, Revolt, he almost looked – dare I say it? – nervous.
“This is the hardest thing, the most stressful thing that I have ever done in my life; it literally almost drove me crazy,” said Combs, looking relatively sedate in a silver, sharply-cut suit, charcoal gray tie and gray shirt, his neck tattoo reading “God’s Child” peeking from under a starched collar.
Why TV? “Television is about to be everywhere. It’s about to be on you toilet, on your watch, on the sidewalks, and the train stations,” said Combs, addressing journalists at the TV Critics Association’s summer press tour. “This is the time to get into television. My mission is to bring kids back to television.”
In truth, it seems that Combs’ mission is to turn his brand into the ultimate desitnation for youth-centered pop music; in the same way that ESPN is the ultimate brand for sports nuts. He’s hoping to fill a niche MTV abandoned may years ago to air shows such as Teen Mom and Buckwild.
And he knows the only way to get there is to get young people to start watching music on TV again.
First, Combs tried to buy a channel from cable TV giants Comcast outright (“They said, um, ‘No,’” he noted a little sheepishly, drawing laughter). But when it needed government approval to buy a huge stake in NBC/Universal, Comcast agreed to carry several channels owned by non-white businessmen to maintain diversity.
Combs’ Revolt was among 10 projects to get the nod, developed as a music-centered channel with strong roots in social media. Aimed at Millenials (youth born between early 1980s and the early 2000s), it’s planned to feature music videos, content submitted by viewers, news breaks every half hour and a web-based series, Making the Brand, showing how Combs pulled it all together.
And, even though it doesn’t bear his name, Combs knows many will see Revolt as a cable TV extension of his brand, in the same way Oprah Winfrey managed with the OWN channel.
So he called the Queen of All Media herself for some advice.
“She just said it’s a lot of hard work; she was honest,” Combs said. “It’s a gift and curse being a celebrity where people think you’re doing something because you’re a celebrity and they can’t understand you have a great business mind, too.”
Combs has surrounded himself with cable TV veterans, including former ESPN executive Keith Clinkscales, who said the channel expected to have a strong journalism component, aiming to snare kids surfing YouTube for music videos. "We'll talk about music the way SportsCenter talks about sports," he added.
They hope to debut the channel sometime in late October – Combs would like to unveil it on his birthday, Nov. 4 – with access to 25 million subscribers on Time Warner and Comcast cable systems (they’re talking to Bright House about carriage in Orlando and the Tampa Bay area, according to Clinkscales.)
“When I wanted to release an album, I had to go beg for (a spot on) Dancing with the Stars or hope I could get on David Letterman,” Combs said. “With Revolt, artists know…if they get in trouble or misunderstood, they have a place to go and talk that’s going to hear their side of the story and going to root for them. They’re at least going to get a fair trial by the media.”