Sean 'Diddy' Combs On Revolt TV, Time-Warner Deal, MTV's Influence (Q&A)

Last week, the entrepreneur/rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs went on something of a promotional tear for his new music cable station Revolt TV, which is scheduled to launch this Fall. First he turned up at Cannes where, in a discussion with Translation CEO Steve Stoute, he discussed the network; and a few days latter he announced a  deal with Time-Warner who in addition to Comcast will be carrying the new cable network. Billboard sat down with Diddy to find out his inspiration for the Revolt, what type of programming he has planned, how MTV and Michael Jackson influenced him and how he will balance business and music.

Billboard: Congrats on Revolt’s Time-Warner distribution deal
Sean “Diddy” Combs: Thank you very much. I’d have to say it’s definitely the most exciting thing I’ve done in my business career and one of the hardest things. I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to really help be a platform for music -- the art form that has given me my career, my life and to take it to the next level. It’s something I think I was put on this earth to do and I’m ready to turn it all up.

How did the Time Warner deal come together?
Well, it started with Comcast. Comcast had a diversity program because there was a lack of diversity in the cable and media industry as far as ownership. We were inspired by Oprah…and besides her, we have Bob Johnson [BET founder] and you can barely count on one hand people of any color – tan, yellow, or black –  who own content-creating networks or brands that have distribution in the tens of millions that can truly have impact. So out of a couple of hundred people, myself and Magic Johnson were awarded the networks on the diversity side.
I immediately started going around to the different affiliates and pitching them my concept. Everybody in this industry is losing millennials at an all-time fast rate to the Internet and digitally due most importantly to the lack of content that relates to their lifestyle. But the one thing I have is the number one form of entertainment for millennials: music. And I have the credibility, the authenticity, the vision, and the insight to be able to create something new and to step in where MTV left off -- without trying to be a newer version of MTV -- by being Revolt.

Sean 'Diddy' Combs Pitches Music Cable Channel Revolt At Cannes

How did MTV influence you?

I can’t even imagine my life without MTV, I couldn’t even imagine if I didn’t see “Thriller” and the making of “Thriller” and the premiere of “Thriller” and Run-DMC and Aerosmith. The importance of that and the platform is something that has been missing. Even though, in a sense, there is a larger platform, there is no curation and there is no authority, there is no credible source. If you’re a fan of sports, you go to ESPN. If you need to know something going on in the news, you go to CNN or Fox News. If there’s something with music, you just have to look everywhere to try to figure out what’s going on. This is an audience company, a platform to support current musical artists but more importantly, future musical artists who are taking risks and don’t get embraced by radio, that don’t get the opportunity that other people get who make dumbed down songs. People that have something to say and something t

That's what inspired me.  Seeing that gaping hole while music at an all-time high. Seeing Coachella go from one day to two weekends and seeing Ultra go from one day to two weekends and Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake selling out Yankee Stadium two times and music making Apple the number one company in the world -- I feel like I can do something, that this is needed. I feel like I graduated from owning a record company and just being an artist to someone who can empower artists and create a platform for the future of music. Hopefully I wasn’t too long-winded, but I’m very passionate about it.


How did that love of “Thriller” and other artists affect your desire as an artist to use music videos as such a key platform for you artistically?
I was in a sense one of th first international music video hip-hop artists. So when I came out with “Missing You” and other videos. it was played worldwide so it changed the whole perspective and the whole image of what a hip-hop artist was because of the videos we were doing. We were shooting million-dollar videos shot by Spike Jonze and Mark Romanek and shooting videos like “Victory” and in “Bad Boy for Life” using actors like Ben Stiller and being able to be creative on a hip-hop level and appeal to the masses even in foreign-speaking countries. It gave me another outlet of expression as an entertainer and it was a key piece of the experience. Now that key piece is missing.
A lot of directors – great directors, cinematographers – have left the industry of creating with musical artists because of the lack of budgets and the lack of exposure and endorsements. It used to get something from MTV or BET, that’s missed. You feel the hole of that in the culture. And I’m not saying that we’re just going to play music videos – but we’ll proudly play music videos and play the best music videos that are out there.

I’m curious about specific programming ideas, obviously, there isn’t a huge music news hub on TV right now but do you have specific ideas of what shows you want Revolt to carry?
Yes. As far as the DNA of the shows that we will carry, there will be a rawness to them. We will not be doing a bunch of reality shows. We’ll be doing music-driven shows that will be exposing you to the discovery and curation of new talent. We’ll also be doing in-depth  interviews, we’ll be doing shows that will go into social issues with different panels and debates. We’ll be doing our version of a Barbara Walters/Oprah interview but with someone from this generation and of this generation. We’ll be going to where the pulse of music is happening and we’ll be covering it in the way ESPN will cover a sports event – with that level of urgency and seriousness.

We’ll also be doing some things that are out of the box with musical artists that have aspirations to be actors, to do short films and we’ll also cover the world of music on a global level. More than ever right now, people are interested in artists from other countries – what’s going on in Australia, what’s going on with artists in Paris, what’s going on with artists in London. We’ve had this thing in America for so long where we play our artists over here and maybe if you get hot enough over there, we’ll let you come over. The world doesn’t work like that. It’s in real-time right now. And that’s the start. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And we feel like, if we can do that good and, most importantly, every half an hour, report the news and report it quicker than it can be put up on a blog, we will build that currency with people and when they think about music, they think about Revolt and to me, that is more important than that one particular show.

But, as far as doing shows, I’ve been with Viacom for six years and I was the number one producer of shows from 18-34 and I plan on continuing down that street but also strategically that I represent music in the right way. And when you tune into Revolt, you’ll see musical content and you won’t see a reality show with fighting that has nothing to do with music.

In the months and years ahead of how, how much will Revolt become your primary focus?
I think it is an evolution for me. Honestly, I think I will personally be putting out less music and I’ll be going into that phase of empowering the next artists. Not saying I won’t make any music anymore, but for me the priority is the future. The priority for me is the next Jay-Z, the next Kanye, the next Beyonce, the next Lady Gaga. And supporting them…