Start-Up Channel Finds Reality Bites

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A start-up cable reality-TV network is getting a different kind of reality than it bargained for: the cold, cruel variety. Reality 24/7, once known as Reality Central, is having trouble getting off the ground.

The network got slammed when mighty News Corp. decided to launch a similar channel, Fox Reality Channel. That venture came armed not just with programming off Fox Broadcasting, like Paris Hilton’s The Simple Life, but also Fox Cable’s distribution clout with cable operators.

Led by cable veterans Kay Koplovitz, former CEO of USA Network, and Larry Namer, co-founder of what is now E! Entertainment Television, Reality 24/7 was initially scheduled to launch last March.

The idea was to seize on the popularity of reality TV by mixing off-network shows, foreign reality shows and news and features about current and past reality “stars.” Today, the buzz is bad. The network has backed off plans to license some programming, and shows that the network had tied up are now coming back to the market. “I’ve been chasing them,” says one supplier who cut a deal with Reality 24/7 but hasn’t been fully paid.

Co-founder Blake Mycoskie—a former contestant on CBS’ Amazing Race—has moved out of the network’s offices. “He’s not officially out, but he’s moved on,” says Larry Namer, the cable network vet. (Mycoskie did not return calls seeking comment.)

Namer acknowledges that the channel “didn’t execute some of the options” on programs he had planned to schedule. “We’re battling,” Namer says.

“Fighting the giants ain’t easy. They [Fox] have a lot of leverage, we don’t.” He says that Reality 24/7 hasn’t lost any of its distribution deals, including mid-sized cable operators Insight Communications and Mediacom, and adds that deals with two larger operators are imminent.

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