Pivot TV’s “Raising McCain” host Meghan McCain with CEO Jim Berk during the channel’s debut panel on July 26 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
A new TV channel aimed at Millennials hopes it can succeed where others have fallen short.
Pivot, which opened itself up to 40 million households with its debut Thursday, is banking on the fact that younger viewers will care about its social justice-driven programming. But beyond that, they’re banking on the fact they’ll tune in at all.
Aside from making college-age viewers care about and take action on social issues — something Pivot hopes to accomplish through a nightly news show, its accompanying website and other programming — drawing in Millennial viewers could be a feat by itself. No longer is TV the sole option for entertainment; it competes with smartphones, tablets and online video-streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu for the notoriously declining attention span of younger viewers.
“The idea that they will actually care about us and know about us is probably our biggest challenge,” Evan Shapiro, Pivot’s founder, told The New York Times.
So why launch a channel almost exclusively targeting this hard-to-reach age group?
The case for it comes from a hefty dose of optimism Shapiro has about its 18- to 34-year-old target audience. “We see the most open-minded, most connected, most generous, most giving generation alive on the planet today,” he told the Times. “We’re betting heavy on their ability to make the changes that the world so badly needs.”
Pivot is a division of Participant Media, the makers of An Inconvenient Truth, Food, Inc., Lincoln and Waiting for “Superman.” Staying true to its parent company, Pivot wants to focus on Millennials interested in social issues, said Kent Rees, the channel’s executive vice president for marketing.
“We’re looking for entertainment that inspires and compels social change,” Rees said. “We lead with the entertainment, but shoot for both.”
Aside from showing off some already well-known content on Pivot, including a weekly Friday-night binging marathon of Friday Night Lights, the station will air films focused on social change such as The End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless and 8: The Mormon Proposition.
Two of its original shows also take on news and current events: Take Part Live, a Monday-through-Friday midnight news broadcast that brings two former Huffington Post reporters’ with a light-hearted spin on the day’s news, and Raising McCain, a documentary-talk series featuring Meghan McCain (daughter of Arizona Sen. John McCain) that premieres in September.
In addition to McCain, Pivot scored another big name with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who will launch the variety show HitRECord on TV! in January. Gordon will host the show, using content from his collaborative production project hitRECord.
Featuring Gordon-Levitt and McCain on Pivot not only brings an already established following for the two, but they also provide entertainment in line with the channel’s theme of social relevance, Rees said.
“It’s really about who they are and the voices they have,” he said. “And they get what we’re trying to do and the mission of the company, and they’re very supportive of it.”
Confronting social issues head on is just one strategy Pivot will use to pull in younger viewers.
It also hopes to capitalize on the binge-watching phenomenon both on TV and the Internet. Thursday’s premiere of Please Like Me, for example, will air six new episodes in a row, all of which are instantly available online to subscribers and through a Pivot TV mobile app.
“The desire for television content is still there, and we think this is still one of the most effective ways to reach people, period,” Rees said. “It’s not about a box in your living room anymore, it’s about content across multiple platforms and multiple places.”
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