Venture to be run by vet promoter Kevin Wall.
AOL, XM Satellite Radio and AEG are forming a new joint venture company to deliver live entertainment programming to online, satellite, mobile and digital media outlets.
The venture, announced July 12, will be called Network Live and run by veteran music promoter Kevin Wall, who was most recently the executive producer of Live 8. Wall takes the title of CEO and also is an equity partner in the venture.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Sources say AOL, XM and AEG are spending about $15 million collectively to capitalize Network Live. The new company will be based in Los Angeles and expects to have a staff of about 100 employees by the end of the first quarter of 2006. Wall says that the network will launch in the Fall distributing evening programming blocks of concerts and comedy five nights a week.
In addition to their roles as investors, AOL and XM will be the initial licensees of Network Live programming, which will feature live music and comedy performances. "The idea that we could pull together a venture like this that could create live programming across digital platforms is something that is better to do together than doing it alone," says Hugh Panero president/CEO of XM Satellite Radio
AOL and XM—which both carried extensive coverage of Live 8—are keying on live programming as a differentiator for their respective services. "This plays into the sweet spot of where we are going as a business," says Jim Bankoff, executive vice president of programming and products for America Online. "This is going to enable us to get a lot more content to our portal."
Beyond AOL and XM, the vision of Network Live is to syndicate its content to a wide array of third party digital platforms and services, though not through competing portals or satellite radio programmers. Instead the company will target partners in areas like wireless communications, cinema chains, and satellite and digital cable television.
Much of Network Live's programming will be captured in AEG venues, including the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The company also looks to leverage the expertise of AEG's AEG Live division, a leading concert promoter and creator of pay-per-view programming. However, Network Live also will be able to work with other promoters and live venue operators.
"Kevin's going to have flexibility to go to other owners of content not related to our company that want to come and use Network Live," says Tim Leiweke, president & CEO of AEG. "I think you will see him having relationships with Clear Channel, House of Blues, and for that matter, I think you will see other festivals and other forms of content, including comedy and sports, that ultimately will have a platform and a place within Network Live."
That said, Leiweke is clear that AEG Live events and AEG venues are obviously first choice when there is a choice. "As aggressive as we are, the fact that we're an equity partner in [Network Live], and in particular that we are the innovators of this field now, I believe that we will have no problem feeding the majority of the pipeline," he says. "But we’ve made it clear to Kevin that the priority here is the pipeline, and we will take any and all good content and use it to fill the pipeline."
Specific programming initiatives are yet to be announced, but are expected shortly.