Sunwise Rises With Focus on Positive, Diverse Series

Two former Bounce TV executives have formed a new business that creates family-friendly original content for African-American viewers and promotes diversity and cultural relevance as an effective marketing tool.

Ri-Karlo Handy, who had been senior VP of original programming at Bounce TV before the digital broadcast network was acquired by E.W. Scripps Co., and Elverage Allen, previously Bounce’s executive VP of advertising, formed Sunwise Media, a Minority Business Enterprise certified media company.

Their first project is Unsolved History, a syndicated series of quarterly documentaries. The first episode, Life of a King, looks at the relationship between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his younger brother, Alfred (A.D.) King, who was found dead in his home a year after Dr. King was killed.

Aligned with Black History Month in March and the 50 anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, Unsolved History: Life of a King began airing late last month and is scheduled to air on 81 stations in 73 broadcast markets by the end of May, according to Sunwise, whose syndication sales manager is Rhonda Sams.

The stations, owned by Mission Broadcasting, Marshall Broadcasting, Nexstar Media, Tegna and other groups, have permission to run the show multiple times.

Advertisers on the show included Telebrands - Diamond Z, Angel Care Insurance Services, Tax Solutions, Addiction Hope and Helpline, A Place for Mom - Senior care, assisted living, National Debt Relief and Diabetic Hotline.

Ad sales for the show were handled by Oliva Cuadra, president and partner at Alliance Media, Direct Reponse Sales

After the syndication window, Sunwise might stream Unsolved History online.

The King episode was narrated by newscaster Ed Gordon.

The next episode of Unsolved History is expected to look at the Black Panthers. While not all the episodes will deal with murders, there are more than 200 mysterious deaths connected to the civil rights movement from the mid-1930s through the 60s.

Allen says many stations have expressed interest in airing the next installment of the series, but no commitments have been made.

“As a 100% African American-owned media company and Certified MBE, Sunwise Media is uniquely positioned to deliver content that preserves our history, celebrates our culture, and entertains responsibly through our empirical knowledge of the black experience,” says Handy. “As we see more diverse producers and writers emerge to tell their own stories, the content becomes more in-depth, more authentic, and ultimately more entertaining. We are committed to continuing that trend and making sure the content is available for generations to come.”

Allen contends there is a void on TV for good content directed at African-American viewers. “We don’t need any more Atlanta Housewives,” Allen says. “Nor do we need more re-runs of Sanford & Son or Good Times.”

The need for a Sunwise is also evident in recent marketing failures, such as the Super Bowl commercial for an auto company that got reamed for featuring Dr. King’s Dream speech and the ad Heineken had to withdraw that claimed “Sometimes Lighter is Better.”

“We are committed to making a difference on the diversity issue,” Allen says. Diversity is good business, he adds, pointing to the success of the Black Panther movie setting box office record. “This is not about a social initiative or community outreach; It’s about dollars and cents and we know how to bring it,” Allen says.

On March 25, Sunwise held a private screening of Unsolved History: Life of a King for Dr. King’s family, including his youngest child Bernice King, and other guests at the Martin Luther King Historical Site in Atlanta.

“We appreciate this previously untold story being brought to light for the general public to learn about,” said Alveda King, daughter of A.D. King.

Sunwise is using Unsolved History to develop a campaign at Historically Black Colleges and Universities to make students there more aware of the civil rights movement. The first project will take place at Morehouse College.

“Our young people need to be more familiar with the civil rights movement and what happened and how we got to where we are today, so Unsolved History will be something of a curriculum we’re working with the HBCUs to develop,” Allen says.

In 2015 the Sunwise partners also put together an event featuring Martin Luther King III called Black Images in Media: Sharpening the Focus and Framing the Picture, which was co-sponsored by ad agency Interpublic Group’s Black Employee Network.

Upcoming, Sunwise plans to produce the 2d Annual Gospel Radio Awards in partnership with Soar Internet Radio. It will air later in the year, probably during the holiday. Sunwise is looking to sell on-site and in-market sponsorships.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.