New Network Has A Dream: Offer African Americans A Compelling TV Alternative

Nearly 36 years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., African Americans are still struggling to achieve certain measures of equality, but on today's anniversary of the civil rights leader's birthday, they will at least attain something that has been prevalent to mainstream America: a competitive media marketplace. With today's launch of TV One, America will have its second major television network aimed at the African American marketplace and Viacom's BET network will have its first real competition in nearly a quarter of a century.

With only 2.2 million subscribers at launch, the new network won't represent an immediate threat to BET, but with powerful backers including cable TV powerhouse Comcast Corp. and radio broadcaster Radio One, TV One has the promise of capturing a sizeable share of an increasingly important piece of the burgeoning multicultural marketplace.

The launch of TV One also comes as much of Madison Avenue's multicultural attention has shifted to the burgeoning Hispanic population, which has recently displaced African Americans as the largest minority group in the nation. As such, much of the focus in the ethnic media marketplace has also gone to the rapidly growing Spanish-language television marketplace. Last week, TNS Media Intelligence/CMR forecasted that the Spanish-language TV marketplace - comprised of Univision's Univision and Telefutura Networks and NBC's Telemundo - would be the fastest growing segment of the U.S. media marketplace, with ad revenues rising 15.7 percent over 2003.

CMR did not project how the African-American TV marketplace would do next year, but the overall cable network marketplace is projected to expand at about half the Hispanic network rate, 8.3 percent.

But the developers of TV One believe that with the right mix of programming and cultural attitude, the fledgling network can capture a market that represents a significant share of U.S. consumer buying power.

"We have worked very hard to make TV One a television home that will serve African American adults' entertainment interests and show the rest of society the depth, variety and vitality of our lifestyle and culture," said Johnathan Rodgers, president-CEO of TV One. Rodgers is a former top executive of both Discovery Communications and Viacom's CBS unit.

TV One launches today with its first full-length program, The Tom Joyner Sky Show, starring Tom Joyner, the host of one of radio's most popular personalities.

In honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, TV One's first day's lineup will also include the six-hour mini-series King, starring Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson, that will air at 1 PM on January 19. Other daytime programming will include TV personality, author and restaurateur Barbara Smith's lifestyle series B. Smith With Style; The Donna Richardson show, featuring the popular health and fitness expert; and The Gospel of Music, hosted by talented harpist, singer and producer Jeff Majors and featuring interviews, profiles and performances by the best known acts in gospel music.

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