This dog's life: Lassie and chums get a channel of their own

Michael Marcovsky has a dream and it is coming alive over orange juice and bagels at a Sunset Strip restaurant. It is a world of concerned pet owners and their pampered pooches gathered round the telly, tuning in to My Pet Television Network. Tempting adverts for organic dog food perhaps, and programming to make you drool.

In a trial broadcast this summer, My Pet TV offered minor celebrity interviews of Hollywood's Rich and Furry, the finer points of Lassie reviewed in Two Tails Up. Low budget and looked it, said the Los Angeles Times. But Mr Marcovsky's own Palomino pony lip-synched the programme breaks: "You're watching My Pet TV".

Mr Marcovsky is a 53-year-old cable industry entrepreneur, a veteran of cable programming for Time Warner and Disney offshoots, armed with $2m (pounds 1,25m) from private investors, including several vets, and an ample dose of chutzpah.

He runs off persuasive figures: more than half the households in the US own a pet, which "doesn't mean the other half don't like them". In 1997 Americans are expected to spend nearly $10bn on pet food and supplies.

In short, pet owners are a lucrative target market, and My Pet TV is ready to milk it. Laugh, if you like. But they used to snigger at the Weather Channel and scoff at the slushy music videos on Black Enter- tainment Television (BET), both launched on a shoestring. No longer: the Weather Channel is now broadcasting to European markets, while BET is a $100m business that has spun off theme restaurants and clothing lines. In six years, Court TV, the legal junkies' network, has become a national institution. America now boasts 24-hour cable "narrowcast" television channels devoted to niche markets like game shows, golf and the kids. So why leave Fido and Fluffy out?

The US television market is in a shifting state. Viewers continue to drift from ABC, NBC and CBS to Rupert Murdoch's Fox network, sports and movie channels, satellite and the World Wide Web. CNN, once the upstart, is now fending off newer rivals in the tiny 24-hour news market. Digital compression technology, lurking just round the corner for the last few years, holds out the prospect of US households picking and choosing between hundreds more cable channels than the average 50 or so they now have.

In this free-flowing environment, founding a successful cable network has become a favourite rags to riches story in the entertainment industry. Nearly 50 new networks actually launched in 1996. Others, such as Parenthood Television and the Sewing and Needle Arts Network, struggled to get off the drawing board.

My Pet TV bought just one hour a day of broadcasting time in 11 television markets around the US hoping to show a demand for pet programming. But the goal for these new ventures is the same: to become a real station, broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

My Pet TV has plenty of hurdles to overcome. Any start-up cable venture has to jostle for limited channel space with big guns like Murdoch or Disney. And in fact, it already has a competitor: the Animal Planet, based in Maryland, was launched last year with big-budget promotion.

It seems entirely fitting that Mr Marcovsky is developing his station in Los Angeles which, as well as being the home of the US entertainment industry, is surely the world capital of dumb animal excess. Movie moguls divorce their spouses and fire their agents; their dogs they send to personal trainers. Pet cemeteries refer owners to bereavement counsellors. Stories of summer camps and surf-side dining for furry friends abound.

My Pet TV already produces videos for animal shelters and 7,500 veterinarian offices around the country. But the secret of success, says Mr Marcovsky, will be the commercial and promotional tie-ins aimed at pet owners. Two thirds of them, figures show, buy Christmas presents for their pets.

"How many viewers of the Homes and Gardens channel buy gifts for their lawn-mowers?" he demanded to know.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital