Herman: Comcast, E! Eyeing Urban Net

New York -- E! Networks CEO Mindy Herman confirmed Monday morning that
Comcast Corp. is developing a new cable channel addressing urban markets and
people of color, possibly using E!'s resources in some fashion.

E!, parent of E! Entertainment Television and Style, is Comcast-owned.

Herman, appearing on the CEO roundtable of this year's National Association
of Minorities in Communications New York conference here, said Comcast was
considering the channel to deal with 'a failing of our industry' -- far too few
services catering to the urban marketplace and connecting with African
Americans, Latinos and Asians.

She said networks for other audiences and tastes, such as sports, are
plentiful, but aside from Black Entertainment Television, urban-catering nets
are not readily available. Major Broadcasting Cable Network and The Word Network
are out there, but they are still seeking clearances in the majority of urban

'It's been way too long to get another channel launched,' Herman added. 'It's
incumbent on this industry to develop another channel. These are very good
customers we're dealing with. If we fail to offer them a variety of options,
then we will fail in our business. Someone else has got to step out other than
[BET parent] Viacom Inc., get behind a channel and see it through.'

Later, speaking to reporters, Herman declined to label how far along Comcast
was with its urban-channel-development discussions or how E! would get involved.

Whatever the venture ends up being, it must be responsible and empowering,
Herman added. 'We must provide another home for shows that create role models
for African-American and other kids of color. We have the tools to do that.'

One possible avenue: backing Fabulous TV, which sources said is a hip-hop
urban-service project from entertainment impresario and Def Jam Recordings
founder Russell Simmons and former ABC Family and Viacom executive Tracy

Andre Harrell, CEO of NuAmerica Music -- which sources said may tie in with
the proposed Simmons/Lawrence venture -- is scheduled to speak Tuesday afternoon
at the conference's closing panel.

Simmons -- who was honored at Monday's NAMIC luncheon with the 'Mickey Leland
Humanitarian Award' -- confirmed to Multichannel News afterward that he
is indeed in discussions to launch a minority-owned entertainment network, but
he would not provide specific details, including potential partners or a
timetable for its launch.

Sources have said Comcast was interested in either investing in or providing
distribution for Fabulous TV. But Simmons discounted the notion, making it clear
that any network he's involved in will be minority-owned.

Simmons, who termed himself 'unemployable,' said the minority community --
particularly the poor and disenfranchised -- needs a network owned by people of
color to effectively present its voice.

He added that hip-hop and rap music has served as a medium for the
'voiceless,' but 'we need that strong a voice in entertainment.'

'The need for an African-American-owned network is so important because we
have to fight for more outlets to have our voices heard,' Simmons said. 'We need
to find their voices through some network that we have some control