- - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Comcast planning launch of minority-owned networks

Comcast will launch four minority-owned networks on its cable-TV systems in the next two years, including channels spearheaded by music mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and NBA great Magic Johnson, the Associated Press reports.

Two of the networks are majority black-owned while two are majority American-Hispanic-owned, with all of them programming in English, the Philadelphia-based Comcast said.

It was unclear how much of an on-camera role, if any, Mr. Combs and Mr. Johnson might play on their respective network.

The new channels, which in all will total 10 rolling out in the next eight years, are part of an agreement reached by Comcast with the FCC and Department of Justice when it was allowed to become majority owner of NBCUniversal.

The networks announced Tuesday include:

• Revolt, conceived by Mr. Combs and MTV veteran Andy Schuon, will have programming that includes music videos, live performances, music news and interviews. It is scheduled to launch in 2013.

• Aspire, to be led by Mr. Johnson in partnership with family-oriented channel GMC TV, will dedicate itself to enlightening and positive programming aimed at black families. It will air movies, documentaries, music and comedy, as well as faith and inspirational programs. It will launch this summer.

• El Rey, proposed by Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez and FactoryMade Ventures executives John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa, is designed to be an action-packed, general entertainment network for Latino and general audiences. The programming mix will include reality, scripted and animated series, and will feature Hispanic producers, celebrities and public figures. El Rey is scheduled to debut by January 2014.

• BabyFirst Americas, from Spanish-language TV veteran Constantino “Said” Schwarz, is designed for infants and very young children, as well as their parents. It will emphasize the importance of early development of verbal, math and motor skills, the network said. The first of the networks to arrive, it is planned to be on the air this April.

These four networks, and the six others yet to be announced, are being chosen from more than 100 proposals, Comcast said. Each will be added as part of Comcast’s digital basic tier of service.

The company, which is the nation’s largest cable TV provider, did not mention in its announcement other cable systems planning to carry the new networks.

Netflix, Weinstein deal to include ‘The Artist’

Netflix says it will stream certain movies from the Weinstein Co., including “The Artist,” under an exclusive licensing agreement.

The companies say their multiyear agreement will cover foreign-language movies, documentaries and some other films in the Weinstein vault and make them available for instant viewing on Netflix.

Netflix Inc. says it will get some films within a year of their release in movie theaters. It says it will show “The Artist,” a silent movie that has received 10 Academy Award nominations, before it appears on premium cable-TV networks.

The companies aren’t disclosing financial terms.

In return to air, Colbert honors ailing mother

With a nod of tribute to his ailing mother, Stephen Colbert returned to the air Monday.

Mr. Colbert was back hosting “The Colbert Report,” which last week mysteriously canceled the taping of two episodes. Mr. Colbert’s 91-year-old mother, Lorna Colbert, is ill. While the comedian didn’t address her by name, he offered a “confidential” message to “a lovely lady.”

Said Mr. Colbert: “Evidently, having 11 children makes you tough as nails.”

Mr. Colbert is the youngest of 11 children. His father, James Colbert, and two of his brothers were killed in an airplane crash in 1974.

He also comically addressed the rumors stoked by the brief absence of his show, which he called “the hub around which the republic turns.”

Bronson Pinchot resurfaces in small-town Pennsylvania

For more than a decade, Bronson Pinchot has spent much of his downtime in the picture-book Pennsylvania hamlet where he found a dream home far from the stressful clamor of New York or Los Angeles.

Mr. Pinchot likely remains best known as the endearingly naive, quasi-Mediterranean immigrant Balki Bartokomous from the TV sitcom “Perfect Strangers.” But unlike Balki, Mr. Pinchot is by his own admission “fiercely private” and an “introvert that does a pretty convincing performance as an extrovert.”

Still, he has decided to open his doors to America via “The Bronson Pinchot Project,” which premiered Feb. 11 on the DIY Network. In all, eight episodes were shot over 13 weeks at the end of last year in Harford, a village founded in 1790 and nestled in the Endless Mountains of Susquehanna County near the New York state line.

His filmography includes 1980s hits like “Risky Business” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” but since “Perfect Strangers” ended in 1993 after eight seasons, Mr. Pinchot has performed on and off-Broadway, appeared in touring theatrical productions and done voice-overs and audiobooks.

His new show, though, is altogether different.

First, the designs are his own. “I get a kick out of it because I sit there with a sketchbook and say, ‘This is what it should look like when it’s done’ and in the end it either looks like that or it’s better.”

Home base is Mr. Pinchot’s circa 1840 mansion in the center of Harford, a town of about 1,300 people. It was the home of state Sen. Edward Jones in the early 1900s and had more recently served as office space. Mr. Pinchot bought the place in 2000.

The first season’s architectural stars are his Ionic-columned mansion and Decker House, a smaller home rehabbed with salvaged wood from demolished old buildings, windows from an abandoned farmhouse and floors from a property formerly part of late heiress Doris Duke’s estate.

Not only is “The Bronson Pinchot Project” a show about historic restoration, it’s a love letter to his adopted hometown.

“Harford is to be seen through my lens, which is that it’s heaven on earth,” he said. “None of this ‘big fish in a little pond.’ No. We’re not doing ‘Green Acres.’ “

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.

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