On Aspire’s Second Anniversary, Johnson Happy With 20M Subscribers

BRONX, N.Y. — NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson said he’s happy with the progress of his African-American targeted network, Aspire, as it marks its second anniversary this week (June 23).

Johnson, speaking at a press conference at Cablevision’s call center here touting the distributor’s May launch of Aspire and Up network, said Aspire’s 20 million subscribers is way ahead of expectations and the network is continuing to develop original programming to go along with its lineup of classic series such as The Jeff ersons and Sanford & Son.

The network chief, who was introduced by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, also spoke of Aspire’s work with the American Black Film Festival in getting original movies and documentaries created by African-American writers and producers on air via its ABFF Independent series.

Aspire launched in June 2012 as one of four independent, minority-owned networks selected for broad distribution by Comcast as part of the Federal Communications Commission-imposed conditions on its acquisition of NBCUniversal.

“A lot of our viewers love the reruns and a lot of our viewers like the original shows,” Johnson said. “When we first launched we wanted to be a platform for producers who couldn’t get their films on another network. We’ve given them a platform to have their films on Aspire .”

Johnson, who after the press conference took “selfie” photos with about 20 Cablevision customerservice representatives recognized for their job performance, also said the industry is making strides on diversifying its images onscreen but still has a long way to go. He applauded the eff orts of new networks that have broadened the images of African-Americans and Latinos on television.

“What [Sean] Combs is doing at Revolt is different from what I’m doing with Aspire, but that’s good for African-Americans across the country, because they have a choice,” Johnson said.

R. Thomas Umstead

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.