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Pivot TV wants its audience to 'do something'

The new cable channel will offer entertainment that aims to amuse and to inspire social change. "TakePart Live," for example, is devoted to "decoding" the news, including online involvement by viewers.

By Frazier MooreAssociated Press / July 27, 2013

HitRECord on TV! creator and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt, left, and Pivot President Evan Shapiro at Pivot's debut panel at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Friday, July 26, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Pivot launches August 1, 2013.

(Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision for Pivot/AP Images)

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Don't just sit there. Do something!

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That's the word from Pivot, a new cable television network targeting 18-to-34-year-olds. It signs on next week.

Sure, passive viewing is permissible as Pivot rolls out more than 300 hours of original programming to a potential audience of 40 million viewers. But it will offer entertainment — whether comedy, drama, talk or documentaries — that aims not just to amuse but also to inspire social change.

"This is a general entertainment network, which we want to be enjoyable and interesting to the audience. Then the inspiration and the action come from it," says Chad Boettcher, Pivot's executive vice president of social action and advocacy.

Viewers can sample how with the premiere of "TakePart Live," which will be "the first millennial-driven talk and information show on TV," according to Pivot president Evan Shapiro. Airing at midnight Eastern time, the weeknight show is devoted to "decoding the news," he said, complete with online involvement by viewers who will join in the effort to separate what's true from what's not in each day's high-profile stories.

Earlier on the network's launch day, Aug. 1, Pivot will treat binge-happy viewers to all six episodes of "Please Like Me," a comedy-drama from 25-year-old Australian comedian Josh Thomas whose first half-hour is already available on the Pivot website.

"If 'Girls' had a soul, this would be that show," Shapiro said with a laugh during a recent interview.

He described "Please Like Me" as "a coming-out quarter-life-crisis suicide comedy," which opens up all sorts of self-esteem issues for viewers to share and discuss online.

Pivot will present acquired programming such as "Friday Night Lights" and "Little Mosque," a long-running Canadian series focused on a Muslim community in a Saskatchewan prairie town that will make its U.S. debut on Aug. 5.

The network will air features and documentaries that befit its parent, Participant Media, which, founded in 2004 by entrepreneur-philanthropist Jeff Skoll, set a "double bottom line" for itself — financial profit and social impact — and since then has produced more than 40 socially relevant fiction and nonfiction films including "The Help," ''Charlie Wilson's War," ''Food, Inc.," ''An Inconvenient Truth" and "Lincoln."

"Participant exists to tell stories that inspire people to be more involved in the world around them," said the company's CEO, Jim Berk, "and we have learned this doesn't happen unless the audience believes that the source of the content and the storytelling is authentic. With the launch of Pivot we now have new ways to foster a trusting relationship by providing tools to understand and distill complex issues."

That all sounds good, declared Brad Adgate, an analyst at the media-buying firm Horizon Media, "but it's easier said than done. It's a big chore to figure out what's relevant to this target audience and get them to respond."

Pivot thinks wide-ranging research and Participant's track record have given the network a handle on what will resonate with millennials, and it's programming accordingly.

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