How to Build Your Own Cable Television Network

By John Yargo

After taking over his father's billboard business, at the age of 24, Ted Turner became a media mogul, becoming an international media figure. Despite Turner's example, building your own cable television network might take several years, from developing shows to working out logistics with cable providers. It also will involve significant start-up capital and the coordination of creative and business personnel. The window for applying for a bandwidth license changes, so you should keep up with all public notices given by the Federal Communications Commission.

Step 1

Develop a business plan for your cable television network. You should decide what kind of programming you will develop and what audience niche you will target. Your business plan should have detailed projections about profitability, fiscal goals, and both long-term and short-term creative plans for the network.

Step 2

Secure funding for your network. You can take out appropriate loans, leveraging the station’s assets, or bring in co-financiers to share the expenses.

Step 3

Apply for a broadcast license with the Federal Communications Commission. The application includes information about the entity, a mailing address, the name of the community served, an agreement to possible future fines, and a statement of inclusion of the network’s equal opportunity program. You fill out and submit the application online at the FCC website through its Universal Licensing System, an electronic program for managing license applications (see Resource). You can print out a personal copy of the application and, after submission, should receive an application receipt notice in the mail. The application fee is often prohibitively high and depends on the broadcast area and other factors. The application process can be lengthy and requires bidding on the bandwidth spectrum at auction.

Step 4

Acquire any business licenses required by your state or city. You will also want to purchase business insurance to cover the loss or damage of the station's property. Additionally, you might want to establish your network as a limited liability corporation (LLC) to protect your individual assets.

Step 5

Hire personnel for the network. You will need a programming director, business management, and legal representation. In the early stages of building your network, this personnel will help implement your short-term and long-term strategies.

Step 6

Develop network programming. You should dedicate yourself to establishing a tone and mood for your shows. For instance, FX has a reputation for gritty, offbeat shows, while Bravo has developed cutting-edge reality television. Because your network is cable, you can develop more provocative shows.

Step 7

Secure the ancillary rights for television shows in syndication. You can purchase the rights to broadcast old episodes of popular television shows and use them to fill out your programming schedule.

Step 8

Establish an advertising department for your television network. This department will negotiate rates and deals with advertisers, as well as design the promotional package for your own network. Advertising is a major part of television revenue. Your department should include experienced television advertising specialists.

Step 9

Negotiate a deal with cable providers, like Cox Communication and DirectTV. The rate you receive will depend on a combination of your viewership and your programming. A network like ESPN, which has become synonymous with sports programming, charges as much as $5 for each household, while a network like Nickelodeon receives less than 25 cents.