After resolving a prolonged legal fight and emerging from bankruptcy last month, Luken Communications is revving up its TV empire.
The Chattanooga-based television network, which already offers a half dozen channels for low-power stations across the country, announced Monday it is adding an an automotive network and expanding into 23 more markets.
Mako Communications LLC, a family-owned chain of low-power television stations based in Corpus Christi, Tex., signed an agreement to carry Luken channels in 23 markets, including major markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The deal will expand Luken's network to a potential audience of nearly 78 million homes covering more than two thirds of the United States.
The market expansion comes as Luken debuts on Dec. 1 it network for automotive performance fans known as Rev'n. The new car channel, which has been in the works for months at Luken Communications, will be the seventh network that Luken will distribute around the country from its headquarters in a former bank processing center on 8th Street in downtown Chattanooga.
The new network will have an initial reach of 29 million U.S. households, or more than one of every four American homes. Rev'n will include programs focused on cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, events, auctions and more.
"With our recent content acquisitions and our addition of Rev'n, viewer requests for Luken's networks are at an all-time high," said Henry Luken, the telecom pioneer and Chattanooga millionaire who founded Luken Communications in 2008. "We're pleased to partner with Makeo Communications in answering the call of our prospective audience."
Howard Mintz, general manager of Mako Communications, said the Luken networks should enhance his company's TV viewership.
"The buzz for Luken's new automotive network has been considerable and we're excited to get in on the ground floor with Rev'n," he said.
David Leach, president and CEO of Luken Communications, said the creation of Rev'n "has been very personal" for in recent months.
"We are thrilled with the finished product and the timing couldn't be better to make it a reality," he said.
Leach will be representing Rev'n at the premier automotive speciality products show, the SEMA Show, in Las Vegas this week.
Luken, who made his initial fortune in the 1970s and 80s with dial-around long-distance, is now an investor in real estate, golf courses, low-cost long-distance phone service, jewerly television marketing and boat building businesses. He started Luken Communications in 2008 when he acquired the assets of the bankrupt Equity Communications in Little Rock, Ark., for $18.5 million.
The bankruptcy trustee later sued Luken, claiming Luken should have paid more for the TV programs and assets held by Equity. A jury sided with the trustee and ordered Luken to pay another $65.9 million on costs and damages.
In response, Luken Communications filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in 2013. The case was ultimately settled this summer for only $2 million and Luken attorneys have filed final motions to exit the bankruptcy reorganization now that outstanding claims have been paid.
Luken's Retro TV offers an assortment of vintage comedies like The Lucy Show and The Joey Bishop Show as well as classic dramas including I Spy, Bonanza and One Step Beyond.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.