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 net worth pegged at $550 million.
But when star producer/artist/hype machine Sean "Diddy" Combs faced a roomful of journalists here Friday to tout 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 and dark tie, his neck tattoo reading "God's Child" peeking from under the shirt collar.
Why TV? "Television is about to be everywhere. It's about to be on your 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."
In truth, it seems that Combs' mission is to become the ultimate brand for youth-centered pop music, in the same way that ESPN is the ultimate brand for sports reporting. He's hoping Revolt might get him there, filling a niche MTV abandoned to air shows such as Teen Mom and Buckwild.
And he knows the only way to succeed is by enticing young people to watch 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 Millennials (youth born between the 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 reality TV 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 the same way Oprah Winfrey created 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 as Revolt's CEO, who said the channel is expected to have a strong journalism component, aiming to snare kids surfing YouTube for music video with original reporting.
They hope to debut the channel sometime in late October — Combs would like to unveil it on his birthday, Nov. 4 — with initial 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," 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."