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Black Family Channel Nears Deal with Gospel Music Channel

Atlanta-based Black Family Channel is expected to end its run as a 24-hour channel once talks with Gospel Music Channel are finalized later this week.

The two parties are negotiating a deal in which BFC will yield its 16 million subscribers to 10 million-subscriber Gospel, along with its blessings, effectively ending its run as a linear cable channel as of April 30.

But BFC executives said the network will “not shut down operations,” although it’s unclear in what capacity it will exist.

BFC confirmed talks with Gospel but would not comment further. Gospel executives would not comment on the matter.

BFC -- co-owned by lawyer Willie Gary, former baseball star Cecil Fielder, entertainer Marlon Jackson, cable veteran Alvin James and former heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield -- offered African-American-targeted, family-friendly programming, overseen by actor/producer Robert Townsend.

Despite its star power and its unique positioning -- along with BET and TV One -- as a national network targeting African-American audiences, BFC was unable to secure significant cable and satellite distribution to continue to fund the network, according to sources, thus leading to the Gospel negotiations.

If a deal is consummated, it’s unlikely that Gospel will absorb any content from BFC -- including such shows as Lisa Knight and the Roundtable, which recently won a NAMIC Vision Award from the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications for best children’s program -- according to sources.

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.