As the multichannel industry continues to offer more inclusive and diverse content, a new generation of creative and diverse leaders — as well as some savvy veterans — are leading many of television’s unprecedented number of English-language, linear cable networks targeting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) audiences. These dynamic executives are spearheading the industry’s push into targeting such underserved audiences as young, Hispanic millennials and black women with original content in genres such as scripted dramas, food and lifestyle content and news and information programming.
These exceptional executives are propelling the industry’s charge to offer unique, informative, entertaining and diverse programming to a growing multicultural audience base that is demanding more authentic voices and images on the small screen.
Senior VP, Multicultural Networks & Strategy, UP Entertainment
UP Entertainment in July tapped industry veteran Angela Cannon to lead the African-American targeted entertainment service AspireTV. Her fingerprints have been on the development and cultivation of the network’s brand since its inception a decade ago.
Cannon was part of the team that joined Basketball Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson in launching AspireTV in 2012 as one of four independent, minority-owned networks selected for broad distribution by Comcast as part of Federal Communications Commission-imposed conditions on its acquisition of NBCUniversal. Now, as UP Entertainment’s senior VP of multicultural networks and strategy, she oversees marketing, distribution and programming operations for the linear cable channel. (Johnson divested his majority ownership in 2019.)
Cannon looks to continue the network’s success by building a multiplatform brand that showcases and celebrates how Black audiences live, eat, shop, play and dream through on-air programming inspired by historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), original staples such as cooking show G. Garvin Live! and short films from Black filmmakers.
“We have really great partnerships — not just with our advertisers and our distribution partners, but also with talent, like chef G. Garvin,” Cannon said. “You’re going to see more of what we do best as Black people, which is to be authentic and true to our culture, as well as representative in a positive way.”
Cannon is also dedicated to expanding the brand into digital. As UP’s VP of national accounts, content distribution and marketing in 2021, she spearheaded the launch of FAST channel AspireTV Life, which focuses on cooking, fashion, travel and design. She’s also weighing the AspireTV brand’s options in the subscription VOD arena.
“My focus is to provide an exceptional viewer experience across current and new platforms that is positive and authentic,” Cannon said. “By leading with the highest regard for excellence, I try to also inspire and open doors for the next generation of
content creators, change-makers and innovators to soar beyond those of us that have come before.”
General Manager and Head of Programming, Fox Soul
Fox Soul general manager and head of programming James DuBose is successfully providing a video platform to showcase the many voices of the Black community.
An entrepreneur who in 2006 launched his own production company, DuBose Entertainment, which produced such shows for BET as Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is and Tiny and Toya, DuBose has run Fox Soul, an ad-supported streaming service, for two years. He has created exclusive, original content for the network’s growing audience, expanding its footprint to include distribution on platforms such as YouTube, Samsung TV Plus, The Roku Channel and Tubi.
Fox Soul, which operates within the Fox Television Stations group, said it has grown its audience by 131% to 61 million viewers in 2021 compared to 2020. More importantly, it has made inroads within the African-American community by building strategic content production and marketing partnerships with such media companies as iHeartRadio, Dame Dash Studios, Stellar TV, Black Enterprise and For Us By Us Network.
On-air, DuBose said the network is focused on providing an unapologetic platform for African-American voices through its original content. With shows such as talker Cocktails with Queens, news program Fox Soul’s The Black Report and The House — a talk show focused on the Black LGBTQIA+ experience — Fox Soul is attempting to serve Black viewers with content that reflects their lives and experiences. “We as a culture have a voice,” DuBose told B+C Multichannel News. “We as a culture have a perspective and a truth that needs to be heard.”
DuBose is positioning the network to expand its programming fortunes, with plans to launch a music competition show later this year as well as original programming in other genres like sports, music, fashion, documentary and feature-length films. Whatever content eventually comes down the pike for Fox Soul, DuBose said it will authentically reflect the voices of an audience that the media has historically underserved.
“What drives me to push the culture forward through the work we do at Fox Soul is to truly allow the voices that have been muted for so long an opportunity to be heard and respected,” DuBose said.
President, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network
When Tina Perry took over as OWN’s president in 2019, she inherited a network that had found its stride in reaching Black women who are voracious consumers of video content.
Fast-forward three years and on Perry’s watch, OWN has become one of TV’s prime destinations for Black female viewers with a wide array of original programming that lets its core audience see themselves represented accurately and in ways not readily seen elsewhere on the small screen.
Perry, a cable veteran who worked in Viacom’s business and legal affairs department before joining the executive team that launched OWN in 2011, has guided the network’s original programming fortunes by luring top industry producers and directors to create several of its tentpole shows. The network has thrived ratings-wise through such unscripted series as Will Packer’s Ready To Love, which is approaching its 100th episode, as well as scripted content such as Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s David Makes Man.
“We champion inclusion both in front of and behind the cameras, giving creators and storytellers a space to share their stories,” Perry said.
Perry in 2021 successfully negotiated the rights to the legal drama All Rise, which had been canceled by CBS after three seasons. Its fourth season launched on OWN in June, with a principal cast made up of mostly Black and Latinx women.
Off-screen, Perry in 2020 launched the OWN Your Vote initiative, a bipartisan registration and get-out-the-vote campaign partnering with national and local grassroots and voting-rights organizations to provide tools and resources to empower Black women to vote.
Partners included the NAACP, National Action Network, the ACLU, the National Urban League and historically Black fraternities and sororities.
“We know our audience and we are intent on serving her, and I am proud of the work that we do at this network, bringing Oprah’s vision to viewers,” she said. “It is my great privilege to continue to serve our community and her vision. Having that as our North Star empowers me and our team.”
President, TV One and Cleo TV
In 2020, veteran cable executive Michelle Rice led the challenging effort to launch Cleo TV, the first linear cable network fully dedicated to serving millennial and Generation X women of color. The launch was the latest accomplishment for the former BET, NBCUniversal and In Demand executive whose distinguished industry career spans more than three decades.
Rice launched Cleo TV while still serving as general manager of sister service TV One, which has served African-American cable viewers for more than 18 years. As president of both networks, Rice has been able to create partnership opportunities that have helped define and expand both brands within the entertainment industry and the Black community.
“There is a sense of responsibility and honor I feel every day leading two television networks that are a part of the largest African-American owned-and-operated multimedia company — Urban One,” Rice said. “Through our various platforms, we speak to over 80% of Black America daily with programming that’s informative, purposeful, entertaining; most importantly, for us and by us.”
On the distribution front, Rice has expanded the linear footprint of both networks through carriage deals with distributors including Charter Communications, Comcast, Verizon Communications and AT&T, which in 2020 not only launched Cleo TV but also increased TV One’s reach across DirecTV and streaming service AT&T Now (now DirecTV Stream). Rice also negotiated TV One’s first virtual MVPD distribution deal with Philo.
On-air, Rice oversees TV One’s signature event, The TV One Honors, which showcases individuals and organizations whose work significantly impacts society and culture, and the network’s signature series, Unsung, the multi-NAACP Image Award-winning music documentary program. She has also cultivated Cleo TV’s lineup of lifestyle and cooking shows featuring such celebrities and personalities as Jake and Jazz Smollett (Living by Design) and Adrienne Houghton (All Things Adrienne).
“We can’t rely on others to tell our stories, so we’re always thinking of how we can elevate our culture and our community through true representation, authentic storytelling and creating opportunities for Black people in front of and behind the camera, in leadership and throughout the ranks of TV One and Cleo TV,”
CEO, Fuse Media
In 2020, when Fuse CEO Mike Roggero led a Latino-controlled management group to purchase the then-fledgling cable network, he envisioned an opportunity to create a brand that would reach an underserved audience of young, ethnically diverse viewers with content that spoke directly to them.
Fast-forward to today, the Fuse brand under Roggero’s leadership has evolved from an English-language, Latino-focused cable channel to a global media brand. Under Roggero’s tenure, Fuse has expanded its reach to include not only linear channels Fuse and FM, but digital media-based FAST channels such as music-oriented Fuse Backstage, Black lifestyle-themed Fuse Beat and home fitness-focused Fuse Sweat — all serving young, Latino and multicultural audiences with vibrant content that genuinely reflects their life experiences.
In addition, the network in 2021 launched subscription VOD service Fuse Plus — which offers more than 500 original hours of original and acquired content — to reach the 80% of Latino TV viewers who subscribe to at least one SVOD service, according to a 2021 Horowitz survey.
Seeing room for more Fuse Media extensions, Roggero has set his sights on launching two additional FAST channel brands — Latino Vibes and Campastic — later this year.
“When my team took ownership of Fuse in 2020, we vowed to continue our mission of delivering entertaining content to a diverse audience that wasn’t seeing themselves, or their life experiences, authentically reflected in media,” Roggero said.
On the international front, Roggero has overseen the brand’s expansion with the launch of Fuse Beat on Samsung TV Plus UK and Fuse Plus on OTTplay in India.
As an advocate for diverse voices, Roggero recently spearheaded an industry push to urge the FCC to establish content vendor reporting that tracks the diversity of content vendors used by licensed media and telecommunications companies. The goal is to have streaming services owned by licensed media companies included among those outlets required to report on their diversity efforts.
“Fuse relishes being an independent network that offers a unique home to a truly diverse and multicultural audience,” Roggero said. “This commitment is woven into every decision we make, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Detavio Samuels in 2021 was promoted to CEO of the nine-year-old Revolt TV, with a vision of building the hip-hop-focused cable network and digital brand to reach and cultivate young Black viewers with content that speaks to their interests and lifestyles.
“I’m driven by the opportunity to make a lasting impact that changes the narrative of Black culture globally by amplifying Black voices that are often ignored and building a company that empowers Black creators across platforms to express themselves unapologetically,” he said.
Revolt TV, which was founded by hip-hop mogul and entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs in 2013 as one of four independent, minority-owned networks selected for broad distribution by Comcast as part of the FCC-imposed conditions on its acquisition of NBCUniversal, has increased its brand awareness under Samuels’ tutelage.
On the cable-network side, Samuels — the former president of Radio One’s Interactive One and One Solution/OneX digital media companies — has finely tuned the network’s programming focus to showcase news and information about the top trends and personalities within the hip-hop arena. Last year, it launched Revolt Black News Weekly, featuring unfiltered conversations about current events with the leaders of Black culture including artists, activists and politicians. The series originates from Revolt’s first-ever official news bureau and studio operation in Atlanta, launched under Samuel’s leadership.
On the digital front, Samuels has led Revolt’s expansion into new verticals such as a podcast network featuring content from celebrities and media personalities. It has also continued to have a major presence in live events with its “Revolt Summit x AT&T” leadership conference, which features musical performances, keynote discussions and interactive workshops in an effort to inspire the next generation of Black leaders. The 2021 virtual Revolt Summit drew 3,600 attendees.
Revolt’s evolution has caught the attention of the advertising world,
with more than 75 new national advertisers and partners, including Target and
State Farm, coming on board under Samuels’s watch to help support the network’s mission of creating content for the next generation.
“The movement is always bigger than the moment, which makes this work very purposeful and important to me and our entire team,” he said. ▪️
R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.
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