Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s high-definition cable channel, HDNet, launched in 2001, will be changing its name and programming in early July. Cuban has partnered with the Anschutz Entertainment Group, CAA and star TV host Ryan Seacrest to change HDNet to AXS (pronounced “access”), a channel that will focus on live programming and take on the ESPN model, but instead of sports, it will cover music and popular culture. In fact, Cuban told the Hollywood Reporter, “Think of it as a SportsCenter for music and pop culture, and you’ll see what we want [AXS] to be.”
HDNet is currently available on the high-definition programming tiers of satellite TV providers like DIRECTV and cable providers like Charter Communications. With the change to AXS, there will be a standard definition version of the channel as well, bringing it into many more homes than the 30% of cable and satellite served homes where HDNet currently airs.
Many of the live programs being developed for AXS will air from AEG’s L.A. Live, the shopping mall and entertainment across the street from the Staples Center, where the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Los Angeles Kings play. Staples also features many live music concerts, some of which may appear live on the AXS network. Live concerts, already a success on HDNet, will increase in number and be a big part of the AXS programming suite.
Developing new channels for television as more and more networks are building their brands online is a tough sell, but one that Cuban thinks is still worthwhile in this day and age. As a sports owner of a successful franchise, and someone who’s made billions in his day, it’s tough to bet against him. HDNet was a noble failure in its original incarnation; it looks like AXS will build upon the mistakes made the first time around for a new cable empire.