ME Tele­vi­sion chan­nel tries to re­gain its groove

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & ARTS - By Pa­trick Cald­well AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN Mu­SIC wRITER

ME Tele­vi­sion an­nounced last week that the 24-hour mu­sic chan­nel will pro­duce eight one-hour pro­grams for the Sound­track Chan­nel spot­light­ing artists — in­clud­ing An­drew Bird, P.J. Har­vey and Wil­lie Nel­son — culled from footage the chan­nel shot dur­ing South by South­west fes­ti­vals from 2007 to 2010. The Sound­track Chan­nel was launched in 2002 by E! En­ter­tain­ment ex­ec­u­tive Ben Lee and has fo­cused on film and tele­vi­sion mu­sic; fol­low­ing its ac­qui­si­tion by Ar­ling­ton-based New Sound Me­dia, it plans to broaden pro­gram­ming. The Sound­track Chan­nel is car­ried on Ver­i­zon’s FiOS TV ser­vice and AT&T U-Verse.

The move, says METV gen­eral man­ager Neil Hand, rep­re­sents a wel­come brand­ing and syn- di­ca­tion op­por­tu­nity for the Austin chan­nel, which has strug­gled since sub­stan­tial lay­offs in 2008 and the 2009 de­par­ture of Austin Mu­sic Part­ners CEO Con­nie Wodlinger. For­mer Dell Inc. Chief Technology Of­fi­cer Kevin Ket­tler took over as CEO in Au­gust 2009. The sta­tion re­ceived word in May that Time Warner Cable had cho­sen not to re­new its con­tract. Hand — who worked along­side Ket­tler at Dell as a vice pres­i­dent of con­sumer mar­ket­ing — says the

chan­nel is in con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions aimed at keep­ing METV on the air past 2011, with plans to roll out new con­tent over the sum­mer.

“We’re run­ning pretty fast right now with a lot of things to re­ally buoy up what the chan­nel’s been do­ing, be­cause we’ve not been as new and as fresh as we’d like to have been,” Hand said. “We’ve not ac­tu­ally shot a new ‘ME Live’ in­side the last 6 months, but we’re start­ing to film them again as of to­mor­row.”

The first of a new round of “ME Live” episodes was broad­cast live Thurs­day — ty­ing in with South Congress’ First Thurs­days — from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., with per­for­mances by Ray Wylie Hub­bard and Shan­non McNally.

Hand said the chan­nel also aims to ex­pand with pro­gram­ming fo­cused on Austin’s film and “gen­eral en­ter­tain­ment” scenes. Though METV has added 300 videos to its ro­ta­tion in the past two months, Hand ac­knowl­edged that the chan­nel has largely been in shuf­fle mode through­out 2010.

“I think we sort of lost track. We kept our­selves up on the air but we didn’t keep our­selves at the fore­front of keep­ing peo­ple aware of what’s go­ing on. In Au­gust we’re go­ing to talk a lot more about pro­gram changes and ex­pan­sion,” Hand said. “This is go­ing to be very mea­sured. We want to ex­e­cute each piece of it know­ing what we’re do­ing. I think that was one of the prob­lems in the be­gin­ning. The chan­nel overex­tended it­self, did a lot of dif­fer­ent things. That caused the com­pres­sion that needed to hap­pen, but now we’re go­ing to try to suc­ces­sively ex­pand things.”

Notes: Hard-work­ing and big-hearted Austin quin­tet

Reck­less Kelly held its sopho­more celebrity softball jam at the Dell Di­a­mond in April, and band mem­bers Cody and

Willy Braun and Jay Nazz were on field June 23 to present the pro­ceeds — to­tal­ing $35,000 — to four Cen­tral Texas youth base­ball groups: the Mir­a­cle Leagues at Town & Coun­try and San An­to­nio, Bal­cones Lit­tle League and Mon­topo­lis Lit­tle League. … In case you

missed the an­nounce­ment, the folks at the Austin City Lim­its

Mu­sic Fes­ti­val have re­leased the date they’ll share the fest’s dayby-day sched­ules (when we’ll find out which of our fa­vorite bands are play­ing against

each other. Choices!): July 13. They’ve also added some bands

to the lineup: Black Lips, First Aid Kit, Grace Pot­ter and the Noc­tur­nals, Sa­hara Smith, Sil­ver­sun Pick­ups and Ted Leo and the Phar­ma­cists.

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