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Dec. 26, 2000: A group of veteran TV and music industry execs will launch a fledgling musicvideo TV network, dubbed Studio M, on New Year's Day in an attempt to carve out a niche amid MTV's dominance.

The net's execs believe Studio M can attract viewers seeking personality-based programs and a wider scope than offerings from Viacom's MTV, VH1 and M2. The long-term goal is to expand to 24-hour operation and reach 90% of the United States.

"We think that today's audiences have a much more eclectic appetite," said prexy Michael Lloyd, whose producer credits include 100 million in unit sales. "We're going to be less predictable than other musicvideo networks."

Viacom bought out a challenger to its music video channels in 1999 through its acquisition of the Box.

VJ-hosted Showcases

Studio M has been picked up by eight full-power stations and over 130 affiliates of America One and American Independent Network. Its initial offering is a four-hour Monday-Saturday block with veejay-hosted showcases that include "Studio M Country," "Studio M Hitz," "Studio M Countdown" and "Studio M Urban Jams" along with "Club Groove," "Jazz & Blues," "Xtreme Music" and "Artist Spotlight."

The block, which will launch at 9 p.m. PST, will feature original programming including "Pillow Talk," a talkshow hosted by Kathleen McClellan; "Live Wire," a request and dedication program hosted by Jim Lee and Shabazz; and "Wrestle Rock," blending wrestling with rock 'n' roll.

The net, which staged a soft launch on Dec. 11, operates a studio in Sherman Oaks and in Newark, N.J., home of a 25,000-title library licensed from Power Play Music Video TV Corp.

M-team players Besides Lloyd, the Studio M management team is led by TV producers Max Keller in the chairman-CEO slot and wife Michelline Keller in the vice chairman post. The pair's credits include "Kent State," "Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8," "Acapulco H.E.A.T." and "Tarzan."

Veteran producer Jack Freedman is chief operating officer. Power Play execs Michelle Miller and Greg Furgason have joined Studio M as VP marketing and chief of network operations, respectively. Max Keller said the net, backed by financing from Thomson Multimedia and PSINet, has been in talks for carriage with Adelphia, DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner and EchoStar on the domestic side and with partners in India, the Middle East, Japan, North Africa and Turkey.

The Studio M domestic sales force will roll out original program offerings to the syndie market at next month's NATPE confab in Las Vegas. Jesse Weatherby will serve as VP of distribution. Jeff Weber will be VP of business development.