TV network aimed at millennials set for summer

NEW YORK — Participant Media plans to launch a cable network aimed at viewers 18 to 34 years old with programming it describes as inspiring and thought-provoking.

The as-yet-unnamed network is set to start next summer, the company announced Monday. It has acquired The Documentary Channel as well as the distribution assets of The Inspiration Network, giving it an initial reach of 40 million cable subscribers.

Targeting so-called millennials — which the company calls "the next greatest generation" — it is developing a program slate with such producers as Brian Graden, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim, and Brian Henson of The Jim Henson Company.

Evan Shapiro, who joined Participant last spring after serving as President of IFC and Sundance Channel, will head the new network. He has executive produced such documentaries and series as "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," and the Peabody Award-winning "Brick City" and "Portlandia."

"The concept is to accept all genres as long as they meet the mission of entertainment that inspires social change, and tickles the fancy of this target audience," Shapiro said.

Participant CEO Jim Berk said, "There's a lot of (networks) doing socially relevant content. The difference is, this will be a singular source for it."

Privately held Participant Media has produced more than 40 fiction and nonfiction films the past decade including "The Help," ''Charlie Wilson's War," ''Food, Inc.," ''An Inconvenient Truth" and Steven Spielberg's current biopic "Lincoln."

"We're not starting from scratch," said Shapiro. "We're building a network from the ground up, but we're using the legacy and muscle memory that Participant has developed over the past 10 years, to bring that level of (cinema) content to the television screen 24/7."

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