Start-Up TV One Gears Up For Jan. 19 Launch

African-American-targeted channel TV One is putting more programming and administrative pieces together for its Jan. 19 launch.

No distribution deals have been announced but executives at the network — mostly owned by Comcast Corp. and Radio One Inc. — are expecting analog and digital cable carriage at launch.

TV One president Johnathan Rodgers would not say whether the service has any carriage deals in place, but it is initially targeting markets where most of the nation's 13 million African Americans reside.

He also said operators aren't talking about switching out Viacom Inc.'s Black Entertainment Television for TV One, which is pitching a monthly rate card with a price he would only quantify as between 5 cents and 15 cents per subscriber. BET currently sells for about 12 cents to 15 cents per subscriber, operators say.

"All the cable operators get our proposition, all the cable operators see the value to their subscribers in having TV One," Rodgers said. "African-American viewers, who have been deprived of a choice, should not have to seek out that choice."

Rodgers declined to say whether Comcast has committed a significant number of subscribers. The MSO "has not only been resourceful and helpful, but they've been leaders," he said. Comcast officials wouldn't comment.

TV One will launch with a mixed slate of original and acquired shows.

Rogers said TV One would devote at least an hour in primetime to original productions. Some being developed include: Gospel Challenge, a gospel take on the popular series American Idol; American Legacy, a series based on African-American history produced in conjunction with American Legacy magazine; and Then and Now, which profiles off-the-field lives of retired athletes.

It'll also produce a series chronicling a rodeo circuit featuring African-American, Native-American and Hispanic cowboys, and is talking to radio personalities Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey about primetime shows.

Recently acquired shows include City of Angels, a former CBS hospital drama with Blair Underwood, and Under One Roof, a family show with James Earl Jones.

B. Smith With Style remains the centerpiece of TV One's women-targeted afternoon programming strategy. Rodgers said other shows during the block could include makeover, fashion, lifestyle and dating shows targeted to African Americans.

"If you think of TLC in the afternoon, you will come close to what TV One will look like in the afternoon," Rodgers said.

Mornings will be devoted to health and fitness shows.

Rodgers said he is close to naming a TV One programming chief.

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.