Detavio Samuels assumed the reins of hip-hop cable network Revolt TV in June, in the midst of a pandemic and protests. Samuels, 39, helped spearhead the network’s focus on social justice-themed original content that seeks to inform, enlighten and empower the Sean “Diddy” Combs-founded network’s millennial and Generation Z viewers with such shows as Revolt Black News and election-themed special Black Voices on Mute.
Samuels spoke with Multichannel News senior content producer, programming R. Thomas Umstead about the network’s brand and its distribution prospects, including a carriage expansion agreement with Comcast. Here’s an edited transcript of that conversation.
How have you managed operations during this difficult time? As I was coming in we had conversations about planting a flag in the ground around social justice, and then George Floyd hit and the world changed. We recognized that this moment was like any other moment, so on May 25 we went from producing 0% social-justice content to 100% social justice content by my very first day on June 3. It’s become embedded in our brand.
Who is Revolt’s target audience? Our audience is the hip-hop gen — that’s how I labeled them. Hip-hop is driving global culture, and even though we talk about them as a niche audience, in reality hip-hop is the No. 1 music (genre) in the world. So the hip-hop gen is our audience, but our design target audience is young, gifted, black viewers.
Favorite TV show? I’m into mostly comedies because the world is so heavy right now. HBO’s I May Destroy You, created by Michaela Coel. Outside of that I’m trying to hang on for the wild ride that is Jordan Peele’s Lovecraft Country.
Favorite podcast? I’m loving While Black, hosted by Darius Hicks.
Bucket list trip? Africa. My top places to visit are: Sierra Leone, South Africa and somewhere where the Maasai tribe lives — so Kenya or Tanzania.
Books on your night table? All of my books are on my phone or iPad. The Bible; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi; You Are A Message by Guillame Wolf; Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.
Favorite at-home pandemic activity? Two years ago, I picked up portrait photography as a hobby. Although I’m not shooting or posting much this year, I find myself canvassing through my library of past photo shoots to find new frames to edit.
Does the Revolt brand reflect the vision of its founder, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs? I couldn’t be more excited about the Revolt brand right now, and it’s been on a journey to get to this very moment. I don’t know if [Combs] could see into the future, but when he launched the brand in 2013 and gave it the name Revolt, he was basically building a brand to do one thing — to lead a revolution. It took us a couple of years to figure out what that revolution was going to be, but now we live at the intersection of hip-hop and social justice.
How will Revolt’s recent Comcast deal impact how the network gets its message out? Comcast has increased Revolt’s distribution, which means that we can reach more of our people wherever they are. For us, that means increased scale and engagement, which is going to be huge. I would be lying if I didn’t say that it also means increased revenue, which allows us to create more content for our audience.
Do you see Revolt’s future growth more in the traditional space than in the digital space? Linear is important to us, and we’re not fully penetrated. While most networks are going to experience a loss in cable homes on the linear side as the industry evolves, we still very much believe that there’s an opportunity for growth. That said, we also know the future is digital and we also know that this audience is heavily digital, so you will absolutely see us making a very strong push into the digital and social spaces . λ
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