TV One Carves a Niche

A key measure of a new cable network’s success is its subscriber base, with media buyers rarely batting an eyelash until that number approaches 50 million homes.

But for two-year-old TV One, an African-American-targeted network partly owned by Radio One, cable giant Comcast and DirecTV, subscriber count takes a backseat to penetration of the most populous African-American markets.

On that measure, the network is doing pretty well, says TV One President/CEO Johnathan Rodgers.

“Our goal was to get into the top 50 or top 60 African-American markets, then fill in the rest of the country,” he says. “We are in 49 of the top 60 African-American markets now.”

TV One is in nearly 26 million homes, about half of which are DirecTV subscribers. It launched in January 2004 with 2.2 million subscribers.

L. Renee Richardson, media director of African-American markets at Tapestry, the multicultural division of Starcom MediaVest Group, agrees with Rodgers that penetration in top African-American markets is key. “Its [subscriber count] is not as much as we would like for a network, but it’s good because the African-American population is much smaller than the general market,” she says. “This makes TV One pretty substantial.”

Still, TV One also has quite a way to go before it rivals the size of BET, the Viacom cable network that for years largely stood alone in targeting African Americans., and has 79 million subscribers. Another new network, Black Family Channel (see story at right), is in 16 million homes.

Rodgers avoids direct comparisons to BET, saying his network’s aim is to reach an older audience of African-American adults. He estimates that his network is generating a modest 0.4 household rating in homes that receive TV One.

“African-American adults did not have a home base,” he says. “The [idea] was to create a network where, 24/7, African-American adults could tune in and see themselves. That continues to be our premise.”


TV One’s high-profile shows include cooking show Turn Up the Heat With G. Garvin, reality show Living It Up With Patti LaBelle and a slew of off-network repeats. including drama NY Undercover and sitcoms Martin and Good Times.

Rodgers says the network is planning to develop more original series. To that end, TV One in December hired former Paramount Network Television Senior VP of Comedy Development Rose Catherine Pinkney to develop new programs for the network. “[Pinkney] has a great history of developing programs, so we are headed to scripted programs for TV One,” says Rodgers. “It’s part of the plan.”