With $4.4M in new funding, PLUM TV relaunches as an online and offline TV network for the “mass affluent”

By Michael Carney , written on October 12, 2012

From The News Desk

Content creators, investors, and video platforms alike have been wrestling with the best way to reach today’s connected viewing audience. PLUM TV the brand has been around for a while as part of the legacy TV world, but the company recently relaunched out of bankruptcy as an online and offline nationwide network under new leadership and with an entirely new business model.

The new PLUM is an upscale lifestyle network that will offer programming geared toward a "mass affluent audience” on topics ranging from real estate, home décor, health and wellness, food and wine, style, entertainment, and travel. Programming will consist of original series, branded entertainment, and even live event coverage.

But none of this is really groundbreaking. What will really set the network apart, is its plan to distribute its TV content simultaneously online, via YouTube, Hulu, and other platforms. No other network currently displays first-run premium content simultaneously online and offline. Rather, most either choose one platform and forgo the other entirely, or in the case of some, distribute via traditional television as a primary platform and then offer the online access with a delay.

Co-presidents Morgan Hertzan and Joseph Varet, who acquired PLUM out of bankruptcy in April, previously led new content development at MTV and co-founded and then sold LXTV to NBCUniversal. Needless to say, the pair are familiar with a crossover offline-online audience.

As part of the relaunch, PLUM has announced $4.4 million in new venture financing from investors including Baroda Ventures, Double M Partners, and Greycroft Partners, as well as angels Roy Essakow, Clive Ng, Derek Norton, Kamran Pourzanjani, and Jonas Svensson.

The company recently signed a partnership with Titan Broadcast Management to distribute its content over WMFP-TV in Boston and WTVE-TV in Philadelphia, increasing the network’s cable and satellite reach to more than 6 million households across these markets, as well as its current markets of the Hamptons, Aspen, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Telluride. Titan also has distribution in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston, which PLUM may leverage in the future.

“Launching PLUM TV in Boston and Philadelphia is a huge step for us as we create a new multi-platform lifestyle network,” says Hertzan in response to the partnership. “We are all about living the ‘good life’ – and we are hoping our new viewers in Boston and Philly will love the ‘good life,’ too.”

PLUM’s original content currently consists of three programs, “Yoga with a View” with Hilaria Thomas aka Mrs. Alec Baldwin, video “Architectural Digest”-like “Special Spaces,” and adventure travel show “Keeping up with Ramona” with model Ramona Bruland. Each episode is set in a swanky, upscale setting like the Hamptons or Aspen, and the programs have proven popular already. A single episode of Thomas’ Yoga program has accumulated more than 250,000 views on YouTube in a matter of weeks. In addition, the network has signed partnerships to distribute content from cooking site TastingTable.

“Our ability to build this online-offline audience and deliver solutions to sponsors looking for cross-platform advertising solutions is really powerful,” says Veret. “There’s really no brand today that has a strong presence in this of this type.”

The key to PLUM’s model is producing only one set of content for both online and offline distribution, but doing so from the beginning with this multi-faceted model in mind. Content may be edited slightly differently for each platform, but by making subtle decisions along the way with the knowledge that it will need to resonate both online and offline, Hertzan and Varet believe they can efficiently produce professional and entertaining content that connects with their audience, wherever they’re found. Surprising as it sounds, this is something that almost no one is doing currently.

As we’ve seen in the world of publishing, the majority of old-media incumbents couldn’t spell Internet with the help of Pat Sajak and Vanna White. At the same time, much of the new media world is built around speed, even at the cost of production quality.

PLUM is attempting to marry the best of both worlds and do so while targeting a highly demanding audience. The company’s intentions are good and the experience of its new executive team should give their success a fighting chance.