Historically Black College Net Hits Web

An online video service targeting the 105 historically black colleges and universities, overseen by former BET executive Curtis Symonds, is set to launch today (Sept. 15) with hopes of eventually becoming a linear cable channel.

After several starts and stops, the ad-supported website at HBCUX.com will launch with 10 individual channels — five for free and five sold for a collective $3.99 per month — featuring sports, entertainment and original programming by and for HBCU schools, HBCUX president Symonds said.

HBCUX unofficially launched this past Saturday with an exclusive telecast of the first annual Bahamas HBCUX Classic football game between Central State and Texas Southern.

It targets current and former HBCU students — and hopes to draw a wider multicultural audience curious about HBCU schools.

“The whole premise of the channel is to educate people on what historically black colleges are all about,” Symonds said. “People don’t understand the history, legacies and stories of these universities, and until you really hear and see it, you don’t have a great appreciation for it.”

Among the five free channels offered by HBCUX, according to Symonds, will be one dedicated to HBCU sports programming, simulcasting HBCU games streamed by ESPN3; a radio channel with content from as many as 60 HBCU radio stations; and a channel featuring blogs from various HBCU student writers.

The premium channels, which cost a combined $3.99 a month, will feature the network’s own live-game telecasts of HBCU sports programming; a channel featuring original content from both the network and HBCU schools; a channel which will focus on students doing great things within their schools and communities; and channels for pay-per-view programming and original movies.

Symonds said he sees network as eventually moving from its online roots to become a full-fledged linear cable channel at some point.

“The long-term goal is to build this into a linear network, but first we have to create a demand for the channel,” he said. “Our target audience is on their computers, iPhones and tablets, so if I can push the demand through digital then it should eventually fold into a demand for a linear product.”

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.