Wednesday, January 05, 2011

ME-TV Saves TV: The Future of Classic TV Is HERE!

According to the Hollywood Repoter, classic teleision sitcoms such as Cheers, M*A*S*H, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Bob Newhart Show may be returning to your local TV via a newfangled digital agreement between MGM and Weigel Broadcasting.

Jim Packer, MGM Worldwide TV co-president, and Norman Shapiro, Weigel Broadcasting president, took the wraps off the arrangement Tuesday morning. 

The two previously worked together on the launch of THIStv, a national broadcast movie service, which after two years is distributed in 85% of the country to 40 million cable households.

A local version of Me-TV, which stands for Memorable Entertainment TV, has been airing on Weigel's O&O WWME in Chicago.

WWME and WBME, the Weigel station covering Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are the first affiliates of Me-TV.

Packer said Me-TV's national distribution will be handled by the Lion's domestic TV sales force.

"I believe Me-TV will be a perfect complement to THIStv," Packer told the Hollywood Reporter, adding that the deal makes the Hollywood studio "the clear leader" in the digital broadcast space.

The agreement is the first significant TV initiative since Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber took the reins of the Lion a few months ago.

How do the two TV partners profit from such an agreement?

"Me-TV is a terrific companion service to THIStv or as an option for a station that did not have the opportunity to affiliate with THIStv," Weigel's Shapiro relayed.

In his group's markets, he added, the two services will be pitched to advertising clients jointly. 

MGM TV EVP John Bryan said that THIStv had become "a great revenue stream for our affiliates" and that Me-TV "should do the same," but no specifics were available as to how much the Weigel station group has pocketed so far.

MGM execs would not comment on what the Lion stands to make from licensing the shows to Weigel and other station groups or from its share of the eventual ad revenues.

However, it is arguably the domestic and international TV distribution operations of MGM under Packer and Gary Marenzi, respectively, that have essentially kept the Lion fed revenue-wise over the past five financially- strapped years.

As Me-TV goes national, other reruns -- Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days, Bosom Buddies, (which features a young Tom Hanks), and the original Star Trek series -- will join the line-up.

Tribune also is pushing a retro digital service on its owned stations called Antenna TV and another service, actually called Retro TV, operates mainly in Tennessee.

Ever since TV Land ditched classic reruns for reality shows though there's been a hole in the market for top-notch "comfort" series; and the recession arguably makes familiar faces like Newhart and Van Dyke more appealing to viewers.

The day-to-day management of Me-TV will fall to Weigel EVP Neal Sabin, who said the content being chosen reps "iconic series, stars and genres that have defined pop culture for decades." 

The network is preparing promotional stunts to heighten interest by other station groups. To coincide with The Green Hornet 3D movie coming to theaters in mid-January, for example, Me-TV is rolling out the original Green Hornet TV series starring Van Williams as the Green Hornet and Bruce Lee as Kato.

Further licensing arrangements for Me-TV will be pushed in barter deals, per Bryan, at the upcoming Natpe TV trade show in Miami (Jan. 24-26).


Anonymous said...

While ME-TV and ANTENNA TV are just entering into the over-the-air multi-casting arena, RTV : Retro Television network has been doing it for 5 years.

Unlike these services, this independent programmer not only has the service on 110 stations, but some of them run it on the primary channel.

RTV's programing consist mainly from the Universal Television Library. The also have shows like CHILLER DRIVE IN THEATER and OFF BEAT CINEMA

If it wasn't for the success of RTV, neither ME-TV or ANTENNA TV would be here today.

So this company based out of TN is a trailblazer and trendsetter that the "big guys" are only now copying.

Anonymous said...

I don't get ME-TV yet, but if it's from the same bastards behind THIS then I hope it never gets here. THIS is one of the worst channels on the air, with its annoying black and yellow bug (that REALLY ruins black and white shows!) and putting the name of the city the station comes from under that! RTV also uses a bug, plus they show infomercials all night.

Kudos to Antenna TV for putting NOTHING on the screen during their shows except for the shows themselves!

Diana Celesky said...

This sounds great. I hope many of our old favorites are back on tv again. I'm sure other generations will enjoy them, too.

cream_city_chick-A-DEE said...

We've been watching & enjoying ME TV here in Milwaukee, WI for quite some time now. So glad it's on & giving us a retro alternative pretty much 24/7!