Popular news aggregator the Huffington Post will now have a presence on cable television, courtesy of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s cable channel AXS TV, previously known as HDNet. AXS TV will carry the Huffington Post’s eight-month-old Internet channel, HuffPost Live, for six hours a day, and replicate some of the interactivity of the online experience by showing online comments on the right side of the TV screen and releasing an app that will allow viewers to comment on what they are watching.
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The unorthodox deal may help expose HuffPost Live to more people. But it also underscores how hard it is for Internet video start-ups to find a place on cable systems, which are controlled by a handful of big companies that are reluctant to add channels.
Executives at The Huffington Post have been trying for months to have their channel picked up by cable and satellite operators, with nothing to show for it yet. Other backers of Internet channels have received lukewarm receptions at best. The most successful such channel, Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, has been picked up by Dish Network and four small cable companies and has been encouraging fans to put pressure on other operators.
In an interview, Roy Sekoff, the president and co-creator of HuffPost Live, did not rule out full-blown cable distribution in the future. He said AXS provided “a way to get on now,” emphasizing “now.”
The telecast will start on May 13. It will be shown weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time (the first half of HuffPost Live’s daily output), replacing the random assortment of repeats that AXS currently schedules during the day. Mr. Sekoff said The Huffington Post was not paying for the distribution, and AXS is not paying for the programming; the arrangement is mutually beneficial, he suggested, something that Mr. Cuban affirmed in a separate interview.
“It’s an opportunity for both of us to grow our audiences during the day,” he said.
AXS has existed since last July, when Mr. Cuban teamed up with Ryan Seacrest, the talent agency Creative Artists Agency and the events company Anschutz Entertainment Group to reformat HDNet, which Mr. Cuban helped to found in 2001. In February another company, the CBS Corporation, took an equity stake in AXS and said it would provide programming and promotional opportunities.
The fact that online channels, even popular ones, are still trying to get on cable TV is a good sign for cable television’s continued existence.