Some Equity guys are back, but not on satellite

Soul of the South Network logoFolks who have watched satellite free-to-air TV for a long time, or long-time readers of this blog, will recognize the name Equity Broadcasting. The basic business model for Equity was to own a whole lot of little TV stations, create the programming for all of them in one centralized place (Little Rock AR), then beam it out for broadcast via satellite. For FTA viewers, the great thing was that those signals were (almost always) unencrypted, which meant that fun and funky programming from over a dozen stations coast to coast were available for viewing from one satellite position.

Sadly, that didn’t last. In December 2008, Equity Media (as it was known then) filed for bankruptcy. After a few months of negotiations, Equity’s TV stations were sold at auction to various new owners. And within another couple of months, all those stations disappeared from satellite.

One of those stations, KKYK of Little Rock, is one of four being sold to two former Equity executives, Larry Morton and Greg Fess. And according to The Hollywood Reporter, Morton is going to be president of a new network, the Soul of the South Network (SSN), which will use KKYK’s studio and production facilities.

Here’s the surprising news from the Hollywood Reporter story: “The new venture has acquired assets from Equity, including the C.A.S.H. system, which stands for Central Automated Satellite Headend. This allows them to program stations anywhere in the country from a single hub in Little Rock. … However, the signal will not actually be fed by satellite. Instead, it will use a computer server ‘cloud based system’ to deliver its programming 24 hours a day.”

So that means that SSN acquired all the equipment that Equity used when it beamed channels all over the country, but it has decided it won’t use satellite this time. There are at least two possible explanations for this:

1. Satellite TV distribution is slowly dying. Satellites are incredibly expensive, and the internet is pretty darned cheap, so IP-based distribution is the wave of the future.

2. SSN might have trouble finding transponder space for rent. Wikipedia says that Intelsat’s claim on Equity in bankruptcy court was over $580,000. Now SSN isn’t Equity, but some of the people are the same, and the headquarters is the same. Would satellite operators treat SSN the way a new landlord treats a prospective tenant who walked out on last year’s rent? I have no idea.

I hope that SSN succeeds. We can always use more digital sub-channels, and we can always use more diversity. SSN’s birthplace will be the same hub that launched the Retro Television Network (RTV), one of the first and best of the sub-channel breed, so that’s a good omen. It’s too bad that SSN won’t be matching RTV’s satellite distribution.