By LORI RACKL
November 22, 2013 11:42AM
Updated: November 22, 2013 8:05PM
Chicago has a new television network — on the Internet.
ArchLive TV launched late last month with a simple premise: Use the Net to provide local, niche content at a low price.
So far, the network has two channels, each of which can be watched for a subscription fee of $3.99 a month.
The Chicago channel includes five original series as well as indie films from CIMMfest, the Chicago International Music and Movies Festival.
The other channel, a partnership with Jerry Bryant’s long-running, locally produced music show “JBTV,” features full-length concerts and interviews — old and new — from “JBTV’s” extensive modern rock archives.
“We’re not trying to boil the ocean,” said Brian Carpizo, founder and CEO of ArchLive, a name that pays homage to the past and present. “For now, both of our channels give you a good idea of where we hope to be headed.”
Long-term plans call for adding more channels in Chicago and exporting the ArchLive model to major markets around the country.
“Our rate of expansion will depend on our ability to raise funds, which is always challenging for these types of businesses,” Carpizo said during an interview in ArchLive’s Bucktown office, which he shares with his former employer, the software company Eventric.
The Arlington Heights native and father of two is the first to admit he’s a tech guy, not a TV producer. He wants to offer a platform for the kind of programming that doesn’t have broad enough appeal to make it on traditional TV but is compelling to a smaller, target audience.
“What we’re doing is part of the evolution of television moving to the Internet,” he said.
Subscribers go to www.archlive.tv to view the content on their computers, smartphones or tablets, or stream it to their television screens on Apple TV via AirPlay.
“I like this idea nowadays that you can choose what you want to watch, be it ArchLive or Netflix or whatever,” said Beth Melewski, a Chicago comedian and star of the ArchLive show “Beth, from Chicago.”
“I also like that this is local,” she added. “A lot of times in my business, people move to L.A. for more opportunities. It’s good to have more opportunities in Chicago to keep people here.”
Internet video services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon increasingly have embraced original programming. Whether that business model can work on a local level remains to be seen. Carpizo declined to say how many subscribers the startup has.
ArchLive’s opening salvo includes a couple of Chicago-centric comedies as well as a show about the city’s culinary scene. “Food Junkie Chicago” is hosted by real estate broker and lifestyle blogger Kelly Rizzo, who grew up in Glenview. In one 11-minute episode, Rizzo travels to Slagel Family Farm, a popular supplier to Chicago restaurants.
ArchLive’s “In My Shoes” follows community activist Jahmal Cole as he guides a rotating roster of fish-out-of-water guests into neighborhoods they’ve never set foot in, from Boystown to Chatham.
Carpizo’s recently adopted pitbull, Pai, was the impetus for “Dogged Deliverance,” the channel’s docu-series about female vigilantes combing Chicago’s streets to rescue abused dogs. One of the women highlighted in the show rescued Pai. Viewers can watch her — wearing a GoPro camera — as she ventures into dangerous territory to save mistreated canines and infiltrate the city’s lucrative dog-fighting racket.
The most entertaining program of the bunch is the quirky comedy from Second City’s Melewski. The former host of Discovery Channel’s “Cash Cab Chicago” plays five different but equally funny personas in “Beth, from Chicago.” Suburban Beth is a married housewife who still likes to party in the city at her old hot spots, like the one she’s driving around looking for at 4000 E. Clark. Another Beth is a Realtor in “up and coming” (read: undesirable) neighborhoods. A gray-haired Beth is the proud landlord of a Cubs parking space, and Lady Kriss Beth is one half of the city’s only female Kriss Kross tribute band — a bit that results in a humorous rap battle in Melewski’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. Melewski also plays herself in a self-deprecating act that has her riding around in a “Kash Pedi-Kab” while barraging her customers with trivia questions.
She’s made three, 10-minute-long episodes of the mockumentary-style series, whose dialogue is completely improvised.
“So far the reaction has been pretty phenomenal,” Melewski said about feedback from viewers.
“These episodes are more of an experiment,” she added. “I sure hope we’ll get to do more. There are a lot of other characters I want to explore.”