A group of investors, including former Federal Communications Commission member Tyrone Brown, TIAACREF
CEO Roger Ferguson, syndicated columnist Clarence Page and former General Electric and NBC
executive Paul Besson, are backing the launch of a new nonfiction-programming-based African Americantargeted
cable and satellite net, the Black Heritage Network.
Among the distributors being pitched is Comcast, which has committed to adding at least three independent
cable nets with “substantial [minority] ownership interest” over the next three years.
Former WUSA-TV GM Richard Reingold, who will be CEO of the new net, talked with Multichannel News Washington bureau
chief John Eggerton about the venture and vowed a launch by December. He likens the network to Fox News Channel, though
only in terms of strategy. An edited transcript follows.
MCN: You just announced
the network. Any carriage
Richard Reingold: We’re
in discussions with all the
major distributors, cable
and satellite. We have
nothing to announce at
this time, but we expect to
MCN: So, was this network
in response to the largest
cable operator — Comcast
— committing to
add three minority-owned
networks over the next
RR: BHN has been in development for more than two
years, so it predates the Comcast-NBCUniversal agreement.
Of course, we welcome Comcast’s commitment to
launch independent and minority channels.
MCN: Will you seek multicast carriage on stations, as
Bounce TV is doing?
RR: No, we are a cable-and-satellite distribution model.
MCN: It’s a tough world out there in terms of channel
capacity. What is your pitch?
RR: The distributors have told us we have unique content
that is not like any other channel’s. One distributor
said to us, ‘Hey, we have had 25 pitches in the last two
months and every one is another form of MTV. You have
MCN: What makes you different from the African-
American-targeted channels — TV One, BET — already
RR: Our target is really the boomer generation.
It is the upper end of the African-
Americans 25-54 demo and African-Americans
50-plus, which is where the income
and the money [are]. And our competition
isn’t just [those]. There are 600 channels.
But [of] the principal channels serving
African-Americans on cable and satellite
today, we are the only one that will be trueto-
life, nonfiction. We’re educating. We’re
not launching with reruns. We will have
some classic movies with cultural relevance
and we will
a very broad word. So, the
way we are different is that
we are not scripted, and we
will be all original programming
or content with original
MCN: You mean new
intros and buffers and
wrap-arounds for library
RR: We will put things in
context. We say we are a blend of Discovery and History
channels through a lens of Black heritage. Our brand
is ‘Life in the Moment.’ We are going to have some very
contemporary programs that we think will be commercially
MCN: Describe some of your programming.
RR: We have a licensing agreement with CBS News and
we have access to a large part of the CBS News library.
So, if we want a documentary, we will have updated
commentary and put it in context. So, say the March
on Washington, somebody knows what was going on in
America in 1963. So it is a blend of classic heritage and
very contemporary heritage.
MCN: What else?
RR: We have the NBA program (one series already in the
works is Basketball’s Best, in cooperation with the National
Basketball Association). We have the strong support
of commissioner David Stern. We also have some
talent deals, but we are not ready to announce them.
MCN: And this network is a go?
RR: We have the funds to move forward, but we are going
to hold off on an announcement of our fi nal-stage
funding. We plan to launch in December, and based on
current discussions we expect to have about 7 million
subs at launch.
We want to get it on and want people to see it. We think
that when they see it and hear about it, they will want it. If
you are an affluent, upper middle class African American,
the older demo with money
and education that the airlines
and luxury cars of the
world want to reach, this is
a way to reach them on television.
I liken it to Fox News
[Channel]. There was this
mass of conservative people
out there who weren’t
being reached by television
and rather than do a channel
like everybody else did,
Roger Ailes did something
quite different and those
people found it.
Obviously we have nothing
in common with Fox News in our content, but I think
we are going the same road that they did. We know there
is an audience that is not being served out there right now.
MCN: Will you offer Comcast or any of the distributors
you are talking to a piece of the network?
RR: All of our discussions with distributors are confidential. I am sure you will understand that we can’t get
into specifi cs of deal points.
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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