Discovery Backing Web-Video Service Along With Schmidt

Former television executives Jeff Gaspin and Jon Klein are starting an online video service with backing from Discovery Communications Inc. and Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Called Tapp, the service will feature long and short-form programs on channels tied to specific interests such as sports, politics and faith. Each channel will cost about $9.95 a month, with discounts for annual service, Gaspin, former chairman of NBCUniversal Television, and Klein, ex-U.S. president of cable news network CNN, said in a joint interview.

The new network will join a growing list of options for consumers to watch video online, including Netflix Inc., Inc.’s Prime and WWE Network from World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Former Fox News host Glenn Beck operates The Blaze TV, a $9.95-a-month Internet-based subscription service.

Gaspin, who is chairman, and Klein, who is chief executive officer, are positioning Tapp as a platform for celebrities and other content creators. Backers also include investment banker Ken Moelis. The first channel will make its debut in a few weeks, the executives said. They declined to say what it will feature.

The New York Post reported on March 9 that Tapp was in talks to create a channel with former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Palin Fans

Her 4 million followers make Palin a candidate for a show, Klein said today on Bloomberg TV.

“We’re looking for personalities who have that kind of connection with their fans,” he said. “Everybody’s got someone, one person at least, that they would pay $10 a month to get more of.”

Internet-based distribution allows programmers to reach the public at a much lower cost than broadcast and cable television networks, Klein said. Tapp would need about 25,000 subscribers per month to make a channel profitable, according to Gaspin.

“The digital delivery unlocks so much more talent,” Klein said. “They don’t have to be big enough to command an entire prime-time show that costs tens of millions to produce.”

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