APTN, Castalia partner to develop new U.S. channel

The Aboriginal-focused channel would be available throughout the continental U.S. (APTN series Blackstone pictured)
May 8, 2015

Canadian specialty net Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) has announced a partnership with U.S.-based Castalia Communications to develop a channel targeting Aboriginal peoples in America.

While still in the market research phase, the partnership between APTN and Castalia will explore whether an Aboriginal-focused network in the U.S. could be self-sustaining without the need to be subsidized.

“The key challenge in the [United] States is that they don’t have? mandatory carriage [and therefore] mandated subscriber fees for certain types of channels. In the [U.S.] it’s totally open to the market,” Jean La Rose, CEO at APTN, told realscreen sister publication Playback Daily, adding that a decision wouldn’t be made until late 2015 or early 2016.

Castalia Communications is a media development company that produces television programming and provides sales and marketing for international television networks as an independent distributor of television content. As such, the company has experience in bringing non-U.S. networks stateside, including partnerships with networks such as the BBC, Mexicanal and Brazil’s TV Globo.

“[Castalia] has had a lot of success bringing international players into the American landscape so we approached them to see if there would be an interest by the cable and satellite operators in the [United] States to carry a service similar to ours here, dedicated to Native Americans and Native American stories and realities in the United States,” La Rose said.

Castalia took a liking to the concept and is now currently shopping the idea to American broadcasters to determine interest and what sort of subscriber fees the channel might be able to secure.

APTN has invested about CAD$300,000 into Castalia’s services. La Rose was careful to note Castalia would neither own nor be partner in the channel, which would operate as a fully APTN-owned corporate entity.

The creation of an Aboriginal-themed U.S. channel could act as an outlet for new content from Aboriginal producers in Canada and vice-versa, LaRose said, and also provide additional co-venture opportunities.

“Right now, we’re limited in what we produce by the size of our Canada Media Fund envelopes. In the States, there are other opportunities for funding; some states have film or television production funds that can be accessed by independent producers,” La Rose said. “It would give us a new source of funding for products that would be partnerships or produced in the States that would then be aired in Canada.”

La Rose says APTN would enjoy a “symbiotic” relationship with the American counterpart, especially in regard to Aboriginal language programming.¬†“Some of our language programming is relevant in the [United] States. The Cree language is also spoken in the U.S., we also have some Mohawk-language programming that would be relevant, [as well as] Oji Cree, Ojibwe, Blackfoot and some other languages,” La Rose said.

The American channel would also¬†feature some current APTN series, in accordance with rights already negotiated. According to La Rose, producers are “really thrilled with the idea and more than willing to come to terms with APTN.”

If everything lines up, La Rose expects the channel to launch by fall of 2016 and be available throughout the continental U.S. and Alaska. Hawaii is currently excluded due to the existence of a Hawaiian Aboriginal network.

“We wouldn’t want to be in direct competition with them, unless they were the ones to ask us to also launch over there,” La Rose said.

(From Playback Daily)

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