By a Philadelphian’s conventional stereotype, it might not seem terribly strange that a Georgian would be leading a new conservative cable channel startup.
It’s proving less understood that the Atlanta-based president and chief operating officer of RightNetwork is the outlier on staff, flying weekly to meet more than a dozen employees in their Center City headquarters.
Yet there is Kevin McFeely, the boyish 38-year-old chief whose career in content — including sales leads at Tech TV and the Anime Network — took him to Atlanta. Two years ago, he was brought on to help build out a concept for conservative entertainment. By summer 2009, it was decided that the world’s first cable channel dedicated to conservative entertainment would be based in Philadelphia.
Early in September, the channel officially launched, including on-demand content for Verizon FiOS users, online, mobiles phones and other distribution to start.
Today, he’s flying between familiar hubs of content and distribution, and suddenly Philadelphia is in the mix.Still, it’s tough to ignore the inherent politics of a cable channel promoted as being from an ideological perspective.
Something of an online firestorm took hold back in April, when it was incorrectly that Comcast was an investor in the channel. Comcast Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider is a personal investor, but the ties end there, save for some independent distribution by Comcast nationally — not in the Philadelphia market yet, though Verizon FiOS is.
Kelsey Grammar became the public face for RightNetwork in September, and, in a series of perhaps combative promo videos, ‘thanked’ a series of more liberally-minded celebrities for their criticisms of the network, from Joy Behar to Perez Hilton (read Hilton’s criticism) to Keith Olberman, as seen below.
Below, watch Grammar lead the station’s promo reel, including at least three Nancy Pelosi references.
There’s no questioning that politics run through the vein of much of the channel’s content. Examples of their programming include ‘Running,’ a first-person, reality documentary series that follows first-time political candidates, ‘Moving Number,’ a sitcom based around a dysfunctional U.S. Senate campaign and ‘Politics and Poker,’ in which comedians and other celebrities talk about news, politics while, yes, playing poker.
McFeely seems well aware of what perceptions might be made about “right-minded entertainment,” his phrase of choice, particularly in, say, Philadelphia.
The Rutgers University alumnus, former Bucks County resident and South Jersey native, who grew up in Winslow Township near Sicklerville, is friendly and speaks freely. He portrays himself less as an ideologue and more of a curious student of content.
“I’m interested in the journey of the cable TV you and I and grew up with,” McFeely says.
Below, McFeely tells Technically Philly why RightNetwork is needed by millions of Americans and why the hell the channel is based in Center City.
Edited for length and clarity.
Why does the country need conservative TV?
This is an under-represented kind of programming. We call it right-minded entertainment.
If you look at the channel lineup on your TV every night, the other stations might not say it, but their shows are coming from a perspective that not everyone in this country agrees with.
Is right-mindedness really under represented in media?
We’re not news. We’re entertainment. We’re not CNN. We’re not Fox News. We’re entertainment.
Right-minded entertainment is under represented.
When you want news with a right-minded perspective, there is one network. That’s Fox News. The most listened-to radio is right-minded radio. But there isn’t right-minded entertainment.
How many young people gets news from Jon Stewart? A lot. It’s good and it’s popular, but not every young person agrees with that perspective, the place where that show comes from.
RightNetwork wants to step up and fill the void.
We strive for all of our content to have a sense of humor, have intelligent wit or an optimistic turn. You can’t always be funny or intelligent, but everything we have should have at least one of those three things.
We want to stimulate discussions and not dominate the conversation. As long as we can stimulate discussions, we’ll always be relevant.
Watch a promotional video with Kelsey Grammar, in which Keith Olberman and Bill Maher are called out by name.
Why is RightNetwork based in Philadelphia?
There is so much talent here. It was easy to pull the people we needed, and the Philadelphia market just isn’t crowded.
Also, [creative agency] Red Tettemer is based there, who led all our branding and website development — it was a big build. They got us started, so they’re another reason we wanted to be based in Philadelphia. It made sense to be near them.
And, really, Comcast’s presence plays a big part. Comcast owns so many networks and is involved in so many different distribution methods, and the NBC deal will make that even more the case. Comcast is a big reason why it would make sense to be here.
So what is really here?
We’re headquartered right there in Center City [In 1 South Broad St., the same building as Red Tettemer].
Our operations, our office space, our bodies — we’re excited to bring jobs to Philadelphia.
What kind of jobs?
[The content is largely created elsewhere].
Technical jobs, people who transport content, develop the web. Our staff in Philadelphia makes the video go.
We have some West Coast presence, but… our 16 employees are in Philadelphia.
Below, watch Kelsey Grammar ‘thank’ Keith Olberman for his criticism of the network.
Why is this happening now?
We’re coming at the perfect time, following an election cycle. Timing is everything. Look at the presidential approval ratings, look at the discussions around the country. There is an appetite for this.
A second reason why timing is everything is that we are able to deliver all this content through digital platforms.
You could not provide video through digital means until now. Standards are normalized. You can run a business on the web, with mobile and VoIP. All those things together and developments that make running a channel on digital easier, that’s a development that has only happened this year.
What innovations are RightNetwork making as a channel?
We have a website that is video centric, as video focused as any network’s website. You don’t just watch video, you can get involved. We want everyone to go on and have healthy discussions. Americans want to discuss current events and topics that are relevant to Americans. We want to help that happen.
This is an inclusive network. We have a point of view because this is a for-profit business, but we want to invite everyone in to join the discussion.
There’s room for all points of view. I think we can agree that that’s right.
More specifically, technology will allow us to clip and share video content and perhaps let us more widely be not just entertaining but help people learn valuable lessons.
It’s an opportunity to share through technology.
Below, watch the RightNetwork ‘anthem.’
Every Friday, Technically Philly brings you an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia s technology community. See others here.