Sean Combs' Revolt TV: Puff Daddy Magic?

Hip-hop mogul Sean Combs has launched his own channel for cable. Revolt TV aims to bring a new generation - and its love of social media - to music television. Guest host Celeste Headlee discusses the venture with NPR television correspondent and critic Eric Deggans.

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CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Michel Martin is away. Coming up, we speak with a rising talent on Broadway. Actress Condola Rashad talks about her starring role in a new production of "Romeo and Juliet." That's in just a few minutes. But first, a member of hip-hop's ruling class steps into the TV business. Sean Combs, also known as Diddy, P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Puffy and a few other names out there - he's now head of his own cable network. A new music channel called Revolt TV launched last week. It hopes to bring a social media revolution to music TV, turning viewers into reporters, VJs and performers. Here's Combs asking for submissions.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE CLIP)

SEAN COMBS: All you got to do is put a copy of your link with #Iamrevolt. We going to find you. We want it to be fresh and innovative and fearless. (Yelling) Revolt. I'm so excited.

HEADLEE: OK, I should mention that all of that noise that sounds like it's our problem with something wrong with the wiring at NPR, that's actually on the video that Sean Combs made there. Here to discuss Revolt is Eric Deggans. He's NPR's new television correspondent and critic. Welcome back.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Thanks for having me back.

HEADLEE: First of all, help me really understand what this concept is.

DEGGANS: He and his backers and his staff have called it the ESPN of music. MTV of course has become a home for scripted dramas and unscripted dramas. And it hasn't really been at the center of music for quite a while, except for the Video Music Awards ceremony it does. So Sean Puff Daddy Combs is trying to draw young people back to the music in music television, showing videos, showing artists backstage talking about how they do what they do, trying to talk about the newsy aspects of what's going on.

And over all of that, he has put sort of the Puff Daddy magic, which is he has this ability to hype things up, as you can tell from that clip. When he introduced and kicked off the channel, he kicked it off on the steps of the boyhood home of the Notorious B.I.G., one of his greatest artists that he managed and of course a hip-hop legend since he was killed.

HEADLEE: Killed, yeah.

DEGGANS: Yeah, so he's really trying to make his mark in terms of saying, music television is cool again. I'm going to make it cool again. Come to us.

HEADLEE: Contributors are going to let the channel have incredible access to their social media. I mean, there are Instagram pictures. There are tweets. There are Facebook posts, and we know that that's not always safe.

DEGGANS: Well, you know...

HEADLEE: We've learned to be wary about what we put on Instagram

DEGGANS: You're talking about Diddy, so I don't know that they're all that worried about that kind of safety. But what the controversy about what he's doing is that if you read the fine print of what you have to agree to to be a part of this talent search, the material that's on whatever you link to him, they get the ability to repurpose and use that in many different ways. So right now, I think there's a little bit of controversy over asking young artists to give up videos, to give up potential songs, to give up material that they may have created in exchange for the publicity they'll get from Diddy. The question is, who gets to own that act?

HEADLEE: Right.

DEGGANS: Who gets to own that music? Who gets to own that artist once it's brought forth to the world? And it seems like the way they're going about sort of soliciting people to be a part of this, you know, Diddy's going to own it. So...

HEADLEE: Well, the other question for me is that, you know, we've heard a billion times people saying this or that is going to be the next Facebook. And to a certain extent, this is trying to make a music TV channel be a kind of a Facebook of TV. And I'm wondering why we would want to watch TV to get real people's reactions to music videos when you can go to Facebook or Twitter or - let's be honest - the comments pages on any news item about a new album coming out.

DEGGANS: One of the things that I think is kind of tough about this is that to actually see Revolt, you have to either be a Comcast cable subscriber or a Time Warner cable subscriber.

HEADLEE: Oh.

DEGGANS: So part of what they're trying to do is extend the conversation outside of a very select number of TV markets where you can actually see the channel. But part of the problem is how do you get people hyped about a channel that they can't even see yet?

HEADLEE: Yeah.

DEGGANS: And so they're trying to do that through social media. One of the things we do know about television, though, is that social media conversation can drive people to programs, and it can create a buzz that benefits a program. The question is can he do it for an entire cable channel, especially one that a lot of people can't see? Most cable channels take many years to get established. Diddy lives in a world of sort of instant gratification...

HEADLEE: Yeah.

DEGGANS: ...In terms of the music industry, and whenever a celebrity debuts something, people expect instant results. So I think one of the things he's going to fight - have to fight - is that people will judge Revolt in its first week, in its first month, in its first six months. And this is a long-term game.

HEADLEE: Eric Deggans, NPR's television correspondent and critic. He joined us here in our studios. Thanks so much, Eric.

DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.

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