Multicultural Perspectives: Fox Soul Winning Over Distributors, Viewers With its ‘Unapologetic’ Focus on African-American Programming

Cocktails With Queens
Fox Soul's 'Cocktails With Queens' (Image credit: Fox Soul )

 As free streaming service Fox Soul closes in on its second anniversary in February, its strategy of providing an unapologetic platform for African-American voices has yielded major partnerships both on the distribution and programming side.

Fox Soul recently inked a carriage agreement with YouTube TV, extending its distribution footprint to more than 44 million viewers through deals that also include Samsung TV, Roku and Tubi. On the programming front, recent partnerships with faith-based content provider Stellar TV, iconic publisher Black Enterprise and prolific music entrepreneur Damon Dash’s Damon Dash Studios will continue to help build up a steady flow of original content that already includes such shows as nightly news/talk series Fox Soul’s Black Report, weekly talk show Cocktails with Queens and music/talk series The Mix. 

Fox Soul general manager & head of programming James DuBose recently talked to Multichannel News' R. Thomas Umstead about the challenges and opportunities the service has experienced during its nearly two-year run, which also coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and racial protests over excessive police violence during the summer of 2020. An edited version of the interview appears below.      

MCN: With nearly two years under its belt, has Fox Soul’s evolution met or surpassed your expectations? 

Fox Soul

Fox Soul's James DuBose  (Image credit: Fox Soul)

James DuBose: I'm very happy. I feel like we are definitely still on the right path of what we set out to do in terms of growth. As a startup, and especially a startup network whose work is focused on a specific audience, I thought it may have been a little more difficult for the industry to get an opportunity to understand who we are and what our real purpose and mission was. But the pandemic actually allowed us to broaden our footprint a lot faster than I anticipated. We couldn’t be in the studio because of COVID, so we were able to have guests from around the world be a part of Fox Soul [via digital], which was a real blessing for us. Word of mouth for our brand has really taken off, and we’ve really learned how to produce our shows with the technology we had during COVID. We’ve really seen an uptick in terms of our viewership in terms of minutes watched as well as in the distribution partnership that we currently have, so I’m extremely happy where we are. I couldn’t have asked for more under the circumstances -- but we still have a long way to go.

MCN: Have you seen much change in the amount of African-American targeted content on screen, particularly after racial reckoning that we went through in 2020?

JD: I think quite honestly, it's the same from this perspective: you may be able to find more specific black content at various outlets, but the difference is there aren’t many outlets that can offer content that’s as raw and unapologetic as us. We don’t have to tell the same story or say things in the same way that they say in other places -- we can speak our emotions without fear of reprimand. In that regard it hasn’t changed much. We as a culture have a voice; we as a culture have a perspective and a truth that needs to be heard. Once it’s heard in its rawest and purest form, I think all cultures will come to respect that. I think our talent really loves the fact that they can speak the way they want to speak and they can react the way they need to react to certain things going around the world. I don’t see that on a lot of other platforms because they just can’t do it in the same way.

MCN: What is the 2022 programming strategy for Fox Soul as it operates in a competitive video streaming marketplace?

JD: One of the missions that we set when we started was to create a safe place where people could talk about things that we normally only discuss in the privacy of our own homes. We wanted to give that voice to our consumers so that they feel that they’re part of this network and it reflects their voice and their truth. I want to get back to that, which will continue to differentiate ourselves from the other outlets that do Black content. I want to get into more of the music genre, create scripted shows, documentaries and movies that continue to tell the story behind the story.

MCN: Having said that, what should audiences expect to see from Fox Soul onscreen?

JD: We have some great shows coming up, but I’m most excited about the strategic partnerships we’ve been able to create with the likes of Stella TV, Black Enterprise, Dame Dash and more that are coming. I’m so proud that Fox Soul’s audience can be their audience and their audience can be Fox Soul’s audience, but we’re all still speaking the way we want to speak to that audience. We also have our first big music competition show that’s coming out in the new year, and we’ll also get into the wealth and finance, and fashion space. We are going to have our first scripted series coming up after the new year as well. I eventually want to hit every genre we love as a culture, but we’re going to tell it in the Fox Soul way and not try to compete with things that people do really well on their end. 

Multicultural Perspectives is a monthly feature on exploring issues and personalities in the multicultural TV space. ■ 

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.