Jason Derulo will kick off AT&T and DirecTV’s first slate of original music content programming this Friday (Jan. 15) as part of the cross-platform Audience Network, the formation of which follows the telecom’s acquisition of the satellite cable provider last July for $48.5 billion. The programming will be available to both subscribers of DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse and the two platforms’ mobile apps.
“The Audience Network is going to have a new music content every week throughout the year,” says Bart Peters, AT&T vp of development & production and who formerly oversaw DirecTV’s Guitar Center Sessions. That series, which ran from 2010 to 2015, featured music performances based out of the Sunset Strip music retail space with host Nic Harcort, who is not attached to the latest series.
New music programming on the Audience Network will debut every Friday with the following musicians slated to appear: Hank Williams, Jr. (Jan 17), Ashley Monroe (Jan 22), St. Lucia (Jan. 29), Hunter Hayes (Feb. 19), Kelsea Ballerini (Feb 26) and Peter Frampton (March 4).
With its new initiative, the Audience Network is expanding its exclusive productions far beyond the confines of the Guitar Center, which will continue to host performances by up-and-coming acts. The new music programming will include a story-telling component entitled “Pursuit of Tone” sponsored by Ernie Ball, a music documentary series, a short form content franchise as well as performances and interviews with bigger artists, each customized for and alongside each.
“With Hank Williams, Jr. for example, we reached out and asked him what would be the best representation of him and his show,” says Peters, who formerly worked as a producer on the Grammys telecast. “He said he wanted to do it from his farm in Paris, Tennessee, which sounded a little challenging, but made it really interesting — so it’s really a collaboration between us and the artist.”
DirecTV has produced a number of original content series, including: Kingdom, co-starring Nick Jonas; the suspense-drama ROGUE, with Thandie Newton and Cole Hauser; Full Circle: Chicago Payback, with Calista Flockhart and Rita Wilson; and Neil LaBute’s Billy & Billie, starring Adam Brody and Lisa Joyce.
The AT&T-DirecTV merger created one of the largest subscription services — the DIRECTV and U-Verse platforms reach 26 million subscribers (before the last year’s merger, DIRECTV alone reached 20 million). In its most recent earnings report in October, which closely followed the merger, AT&T reported a profit of $3 billion, down from $3.1 billion a year earlier; consolidated revenue grew 19 percent to $39.1 billion due to the DirecTV purchase.
AT&T is certainly not the only U.S. telecom upping its content strategy. Verizon — which purchased AOL for $4.4 billion last June and recently launched its go90 app with a suite of exclusive programming from partners including AwesomenessTV, NFL and Comedy Central — is also reportedly working on an exclusive video content deal with Sony. T-Mobile recently announced an exclusive contract with Starz. Meanwhile, cable telecoms like Comcast, which purchased NBC Universal in 2009, has its original content and distribution under one roof. Time-Warner, which split from AOL in 2009, is said to be ripe for acquisition by a number of interested parties that could potentially include Apple, Amazon or Google.