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Cable Vets Ready New Gaming Network

Oct 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Former executives from E!, Speedvision and The Travel Channel are rolling the dice on a new digital network called Casino and Gaming Television.
“We’re confident our audience will be large enough and passionate enough to support a 24-hour network centered around gaming information and entertainment,” said Nickolas Rhodes, CGTV’s president and CEO and a former senior VP of business development for Speedvision and Outdoor Life.
For CGTV’s purposes, “gaming” is defined as casino gambling, recreational and sports betting-not playing video games. The network commissioned a SmithGeiger research study that showed occasional and hard-core casino players were likely to watch a gaming channel, even if it did not actually offer any gambling. The network’s target demographic will be men 21 to 34 interested in these forms of gaming.
“There isn’t really any home-base channel for this demographic,” said David Hawk, founder of the Global Financial Group and one of the network’s key financiers.
The network, which has yet to sign any carriage agreements, is being readied to debut in the third quarter of 2004. Mr. Hawk said the network hopes to raise $75 million. “We’re past eight figures now. We feel we’re well on our way to raising the total capital by the first quarter of 2004,” he said.
CGTV sees casinos and card clubs as advertisers and promotional partners but doesn’t anticipate accepting online or off-shore casinos as advertisers on the channel or its companion Web site.
Other key CGTV executives include Chief Financial Offer and Chief Operating Officer William Keenan (former CFO of E!) and Programming Advisor Steven Cheskin (a former executive VP and general manager of The Travel Channel).
The programs currently in development are:
* “CGTV University” and “Winning Hand”-Gambling experts offer gaming tips and anecdotes for casino and cardroom play.
* “Tournaments With a Twist”-Coverage of poker tournaments, including contests between showgirls, celebrities and amateurs.
* “CGTV Sports Book”-Expert advice for sports betting enthusiasts. Though the show will be shot in a casino sports book room, certain information (such as an odds board) cannot be shown due to legal restrictions in certain states.
* “Entertainment Insider”-Showcases major Las Vegas and other international gaming resort performers.
* “Dusk ’til Dawn”-A tour of nightspots in Las Vegas, Monaco and other gaming capitals.
Despite the gambling-centric bent of the slate, executives emphasize the network is “not a gambling channel.” Indeed, throughout CGTV’s press materials that discuss a slate dedicated to Las Vegas, casinos, poker and sports betting, the word “gambling” is studiously avoided.
As for filling the rest of the network’s schedule, Mr. Rhodes said CGTV is seeking to license “some interesting library product emanating from casinos,” but most of the programming will be original content that’s either outsourced or self-produced. The content from casinos might include historical footage of shows dating back as much as 25 years as well as the kind of show promos that play in Vegas hotel rooms.
Initial reaction from multiple system operator executives, Mr. Rhodes said, has been “the same one they’re giving to all new network concepts.”
“[MSOs] want some show of stability and long-term viability,” he said. “It’s a very crowded environment. You have to break through the clutter and prove yourself worthy. We need to be extremely conservative and sober in our approach.”
In others words, they don’t want it to be too big a gamble.