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TV stations to replace Circle Country with Outlaw, The365 in January

The two new broadcast networks are being launched through a new joint venture comprised of Gray Television, Warner Bros Discovery and Lionsgate.

The two new broadcast networks are being launched through a new joint venture comprised of Gray Television, Warner Bros Discovery and Lionsgate.

Promotional graphics for broadcast networks Outlaw and The365. (Courtesy images, composite graphic by The Desk)
Promotional graphics for broadcast networks Outlaw and The365. (Courtesy images, composite graphic by The Desk)

Gray Television will stop distributing Country Circle to broadcast television stations across the country and will replace it with one of two networks that will launch as part of a new joint venture.

Starting January 1, Circle Country will stop broadcasting on over-the-air television and convert into a free, ad-supported streaming TV channel on a full-time basis. From that day, viewers who want access to Circle Country will be able to watch it on the Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, Sling Freestream and Comcast’s Xumo Play.

Broadcast stations will replace Circle Country with one of two new digital networks: Outlaw, which offers country western programming, or The365, a network offering Black-centric TV shows and movies.

Outlaw and The365 are being launched by Free TV Networks, a new joint venture comprised of Gray Television, Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) and Lionsgate. The operation is being led by Jonathan Katz, a broadcaster whose prior venture, Katz Networks (Laff, Bounce TV, Grit), was acquired by the E. W. Scripps Company.

Outlaw will feature hit country western movies and TV shows like “The Sacketts,” “Last Stand at Saber River,” “The Train Robber,” “The Naked Spur,” “F Troop,” “Chisum,” “Wyatt Earp,” “Vengeance Valley” and “Longmire.” It will compete primarily against Grit, a television network that offers similar programming and operated by Scripps.

The365 will offer blockbuster films like “Purple Rain” and “I Am Legend” alongside off-network re-runs of “Dear White People” and “Queen Sugar.” Several Tyler Perry films, including “A Madea Family Funeral,” will also debut on the channel.

Streaming versions of Outlaw and The365 are expected to come later in the year, and Free TV Networks is also working on two other channels — VCR HaHa and VCR Action — that will debut at some point in the future.

“These digital broadcast and [free, ad-supported streaming] channels bring together two content leaders, one of the nation’s largest broadcast companies, and a respected industry pioneer in support of a strong lineup of African American and Western programming,” Jim packer, the president of worldwide television distribution at Lionsgate, said in a statement last month. “This is a great opportunity to serve two large and scalable demos with world-class IP in a well-defined market segment.”

WBD and Lionsgate will contribute content from their TV and film libraries to the channels, while Gray Television will handle distribution of them networks themselves. Upon launch, Outlaw and The365 combined will reach 80 percent of American TV households.

“We have a long and successful strategy licensing our world-class content to every platform — from networks and syndication to digital and streaming,” David Decker, the president of content sales at WBD, said in a statement. “Free TV Networks fits this perfectly, and we’re happy to offer our hit films and television shows to their audiences.”

“Serving diverse communities is a key piece of our strategy at Gray and has served us well for decades,” Pat LaPlatney, the president and co-CEO of Gray Television, said in November. “Our partnership with Free TV Networks is another illustration of our strong commitment to the continued growth of broadcast television within today’s media ecosystem and the importance of delivering high-value entertainment without high costs to our viewers.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).