Rolling Out

Chicago’s community TV network is getting a refresh

CAN TV gets a new executive producer and new shows
Chicago’s community TV network is getting a refresh
Darrious Hilmon, executive producer of CAN TV (Photo courtesy CAN TV)

CAN TV, Chicago’s cable access network, is home to iconic local programs. Maybe you’ve tuned in to watch radio legend La Donna Tittle prepare her signature dishes on “Cookin’ wit Tittle,” or you’ve stayed current on Chicago politics with its long-running “Political Forum” show.

But for the last two years, the network lacked a permanent executive director. Darrious Hilmon filled that role in April and is seeking to re-energize and modernize the network to reflect the way Chicagoans watch TV today. Hilmon, who has a background in executive management, is the former executive director of the Chicago State Foundation and chief operating officer of the Chicago Urban League.

“CAN TV’s unique formula – hyper-local TV that celebrates the diversity of Chicago – is what makes it a beloved part of the community,” says Hilmon. “At the same time, it faces challenges. Fewer Chicagoans subscribe to cable. More of our viewers are used to watching shows online or on their phones.”

Much of Hilmon’s initial efforts are focused on updating the network, which was established in 1983 and has grown into one of the largest and most prominent community access networks in the nation. To adapt, Hilmon and the CAN TV team are set to release a new prime-time lineup of original programming, a new website, and other big changes.

This month, the new website went live. It includes 24/7 live streams of CAN TV’s four program channels, and on-demand episodes for popular shows.

“We’re making it easier than ever for our long-time viewers to watch our shows, and we’re hoping to attract new viewers who value original stories about the culture and people of Chicago,” says Hilmon.

On Sept. 12, the network launched a new signature programming block – five new programs airing weeknights at 7 p.m. CDT. The shows are a mix of interview and conversation formats featuring local news, culture, politics, and community leaders all hosted by Chicagoans and featuring stories about Chicago.

On Fridays, Hilmon himself will be in front of the camera as the host of “In The Arena.” The show will feature kitchen table conversations with Chicago thinkers, writers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, businesspeople, and newsmakers.

“I’ll be asking the obvious – and not so obvious questions,” says Hilmon.

In addition, CAN TV is improving the metrics of its audience and impact through a partnership with Neilsen ratings. “Professional ratings help CAN TV demonstrate its [appeal] and attract additional support,” explains Hilmon.

CAN TV’s popular low-cost training programs that teach media production skills will continue. The training programs foster a strong community of Chicago creators to produce shows that chronicle life in the city. One CAN TV producer just hit his 500th episode milestone.

“CAN TV prides itself on being the public’s space on cable television, free of commercials, filters, and censors, often featuring voices excluded from the mainstream media,” said Hilmon. “We’re excited about this next chapter for CAN TV.”

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