A new gospel cable channel will launch this fall, headed by veteran cable executives Charles Humbard, former senior VP/GM of Discovery Networks, and Brad Siegel, former president of Turner Entertainme

A new gospel cable channel will launch this fall, headed by veteran cable executives Charles Humbard, former senior VP/GM of Discovery Networks, and Brad Siegel, former president of Turner Entertainment Networks. Humbard is president/CEO of the Gospel Music Channel. Siegel will serve as vice chairman.

The new venture is being financed by two private equity firms experienced in media investing: Alpine Equity Partners L.P. and Constellation Ventures (a Bear Stearns Asset Management Venture Fund). Veteran country artist Larry Gatlin joins the channel as director, Artists & Performances, Country and Southern Gospel. The Gospel Music Channel will be based in Atlanta with production offices in Nashville.

The channel will feature videos as well orginal primetime programming. The principals say it will showcase the various music styles under the contemporary Christian/gospel umbrella, including country gospel, rock, rap and children's music.

According to Siegel, programming will include countdown shows, award shows and biographies. "One of the things we will do is go really deep into the archives and trace the history of gospel music," he adds. "We aren't going to limit ourselves just to contemporary music of the moment. We are going to really look at the whole history of gospel music and not forget about the roots of it."

Though MTV, VH1 and CMT have flourished, the gospel industry hasn't been as fortunate when it comes to having a cable vehicle for the music. In the mid 1990s, Nashville-based gospel channel Z Music Television started up, floundered and eventually shut down. "The gospel music industry is larger and more developed since the Z-Music days," says Gospel Music Assn. president John Styll. "As 7% of the domestic music market, it is a viable genre with a large, devoted fan base."

Hubbard says the goal is to be a "very large cable network with over 50 million subscribers within five to seven years."

In addition to the Gospel Music Channel, the Charlotte, N.C.-based MP Network also plans to launch in late 2004. Neither network has locked in commitments from cable or satellite providers to carry it. However, the Gospel Channel has struck a deal with Cox Communications, one of the nation's top cable providers, to negotiate space on its individual systems.

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