A Campaign That Entertains

Multicultural entertainment networks are prepping for the biggest entertainment event of the summer: the Democratic and Republican conventions, and their respective presumptive presidential nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

This month, networks such as Fuse, Revolt, BET and TV One will provide both TV and digital coverage of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland (July 18-21) and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia (July 25-28).

Providing news coverage through a multicultural lens — especially during an important and unpredictable campaign season — should appeal to the networks’ target viewers despite the channels’ entertainment-programming pedigrees, network executives said.

“I think the landscape for this particular election season is uncharted territory,” Fuse Media CEO Michael Schwimmer said. “We have candidates on both sides that are controversial, and particularly on the Republican side, with regard to the Hispanic community. I don’t think we’ve seen this kind of change and acrimony in a way that so directly effects our audience.”

Fuse will air segments from the convention both on its air and online. They will be reported by correspondents Arlene Santana and James Villalobos, who were chosen by Fuse viewers last month as part of the network’s “Crash the Parties” initiative with nonprofit political organization Voto Latino, Schwimmer said.

Having covered the 2008 and 2012 conventions, Schwimmer added that there is far more interest among young viewers this year than in the previous elections.

“The interest in both candidates, along with the explosion of social media over the past eight years, makes this a better experience for us as an organization and for viewers who will get that content multiple ways,” Schwimmer said.

TV One president and CEO Brad Siegel said the network’s live daily coverage from the convention floors, via morning news program News One Now with Roland Martin, will provide its African-American audience with a more in-depth look at the issues important to them.

The show’s website, newsone.com, will also offer live reports from the conventions.

“Viewers expect us to be covering the most important news of the day, and be able to interpret and ask the questions of the newsmakers regarding how their politics affects African-Americans,” he said. “That’s our job — to ask the questions from a perspective that no one else is asking, and our viewers expect us to represent their point of view, their situations and how their policies affect their lives.”

Coverage of the conventions won’t be limited to what’s happening in the arenas. Revolt TV chief political correspondent Amrit Singh said he plans to complement the network’s convention coverage with reports from outside the proceedings, where major protests are expected.

“The story there is not only what’s happening in the convention halls but very much what’s happening in the streets,” he said.

As part of Revolt’s “Revolt 2 Vote” initiative, the network will feature live segments from the convention floor that will air on the network’s daily Revolt Live show as well as on network website revolt.tv, Singh said. The network will also break into regularly scheduled programming during the conventions to offer live updates and interviews from the convention floors, he added.

“These conventions are really four-day reality shows,” Singh said. “This is really an opportunity to galvanize the attention of our audience.”

Myx Tv general manager Miguel Santos added that a diverse offering of voices and images on television helps to assure that all voters have a chance to have their issues and concerns heard. 

“It’s important for multicultural networks to ensure that their viewers feel like they have a voice and their needs are being addressed,” said Santos, whose network is in process of planning its on-air and online election coverage.

“You’ll hear presidential candidates say ‘We have the African-American, Latino and event the LGBTQ+ vote’ but rarely is there a mention of Asian Americans," he added. "Our viewers need to know that  they can and should demand more attention because their votes matter too.”

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.