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Plan for Maxim TV Network Comes as Cable Operators Look to Shed Channels

Magazine Has Reached A Deal With One Operator

By Published on . 0

The incoming new owners of Maxim, a group led by former UPS executive Calvin Darden, are planning to introduce a Maxim TV network this year to find new advertising markets and help the brand escape downward pressures on print media, the company said.

"We're going to take a lot of the Maxim proprietary events and turn them into original programming," Mr. Darden said. "We're going to get into extreme sports and music. It's going to be very exciting."

Darden Media Group has already struck a deal with one cable operator to add Maxim TV and is negotiating with two others, Mr. Darden said, declining to identify the companies. The goal is to make the network available in 35 million to 40 million homes by year's end, he added.

"We're talking about a very vibrant brand that to a certain degree has been encumbered by print," said Ben Madden, who will continue as president of Maxim under the new ownership. "The TV network allows us to go play in new markets where we couldn't play before."

But the effort comes at a precarious time. Pay-TV providers are looking to shed channels in an effort to contain growing costs. Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt has been vocal about re-evaluating small networks and pulling the plug on those that viewers don't value. It stopped carrying the arts network Ovation earlier this year.

Although Mr. Darden was short on details about the cable channel, he said Maxim was following a "slightly different approach" from Esquire magazine, which is taking over the Style Network this month with plans for a cooking competition, a travel show and a fashion series with former NBA player Baron Davis.

Maxim produces video content for a range of platforms, including its website, YouTube and applications for mobile and Xbox Live, which feature a couple of hours of Maxim content weekly. It is planning to roll out similar apps for PlayStation 3 and,set-top devices like Roku.

Maxim has also produced one-off programs for cable, including its "Hot 100" for VH1. "There has been a long history with Maxim in TV," said Mr. Madden.

Despite the tough TV marketplace, attempts to create new cable channels continue, fueled by the TV ad dollars that await successful entries. Sean "Diddy" Combs will introduce his music channel, Revolt, next month, while Participant Media premiered its millennial-focused channel, Pivot, over the summer.

But getting carriage isn't easy. For each network that does make it on to cable packages, there are others like WWE and Back9Network that have yet to find their way into homes after several years of effort.

Strong programming isn't enough to win over skeptical cable operators, said Catherine Rasenberger, who has helped launch channels like Outside TV, TV One and Outdoor Channel. Instead, it's about the audience to which a network appeals.

"The operators will argue that there are no remaining underserved audiences in this mature cable programming environment," Ms. Rasenberger said in an email. Almost every niche audience probably has another network serving it already, she said. "So it's harder to argue that a new network is going to deliver an audience that the operator isn't currently reaching."

Mr. Darden said Maxim offers both content and audience. "We're directly in touch with the demographic that companies want to market to," he said, referring to young men ages 18 to 34. "We're giving them an additional platform to reach them."

Darden Media is also a minority-owned and operated media company, which might be a factor in its efforts around Maxim TV. Comcast agreed to introduce 10 minority-owned cable channels in exchange for government approval to buy a majority stake in NBC Universal. Mr. Comb's Revolt network is among the 10 channels, as is a network from Magic Johnson.

When asked whether this was a factor in buying Maxim, Mr. Darden declined to comment.

Cable TV is just one part of Darden Media's strategy in buying Maxim, which had been on the block since March. Mr. Darden said print will continue to play a large role.

"We're looking to make the magazine more robust," he said, promising to invest heavily in the print publication. "We really believe in it."

Mr. Darden is also planning a Maxim-branded music label. The company is currently negotiating with "well established" artists, he said.

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