tavis  smiley (2012-big-upper)*BlogTalkRadio, the seven-year-old Web service, is joining forces with Tavis Smiley, the public television and radio host.

The Tavis Smiley Network will start its broadcast today on BlogTalkRadio. Tavis will be anchoring a weekday show as well producing for other contributors on the network.

The deal between Tavis and BlogTalkRadio signifies a major change for the network as they look to expand their reach with national media personalities.

Keeping with their current model, Tavis and BlogTalkRadio will split any ad revenue. In addition, Tavis will become the first partner of the site to be paid a fee for his contributions to the network according to Alan Levy, co-founder and chief executive of BlogTalkRadio.

With this new venture BlogTalkRadio will be benefit from an increase in listeners due to Smiley’s large social media following.

The service says it has 15,000 registered contributors and attracts 18 million unique monthly visitors who listen 40 million times.

In an interview with the NY Times’ Elizabeth Jensen, Smiley called Internet radio “the wave of the future,” adding, “those numbers are worthy of being wrestled with.”

BlogTalkRadio acquiring Tavis to their network comes after the cancellation by some stations of his weekly show, “Smiley & West,” co-hosted with Cornel West. (The show  – distributed by PRI – continues to air on public radio stations.)

A combination of politics and his very public criticism of President Obama, is what Smiley cites as the reasons behind the cancellations.

Luckily for Tavis, two commercial AM stations picked up the program in Chicago and according to him, receives more distribution than before. Public Radio International, its distributor, declined to provide figures.

Future guests of the new show on BlogTalkRadio include the actress Helen Hunt, author Walter Mosley and the hip-hop group the Sugarhill Gang.

He plans to take calls from listeners at least twice a week. “I just love being in conversation with people,” he said.

BlogTalkRadio’s Levy announced that the outlet is looking to add networks in areas like sports and the arts. So we can expect more announcements in coming months.

Read/learn more at NY Times.