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TV One, MBC Stir Up News With Star Power

African-American centered networks TV One and Major Broadcasting Cable Network both announced big programming developments last week at the National Show.

The independently owned MBC created quite the stir on the show floor last Monday, as Michael Jackson appeared at its booth to announce a programming alliance. Jackson did not comment, but MBC officials said the "King Of Pop" will create several programming projects for the entertainment network over the next 18 months, including a potential documentary about the Jackson family.

Jackson's brother Marlon is a part owner of MBC, currently in 27 million homes. Actor Chris Tucker (Rush Hour) is also in discussions with the network to develop a possible comedy series and other projects.

"We want to make sure that we provide an outlet and a voice for the entertainment elite within the urban community," executive vice president of operations Travis Mitchell said.

MBC also announced on June 9 a five-year programming alliance with four major black sports conferences. The network will feature weekly live sports programming from the Mid-East Athletic Conference, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Mitchell said. The deal calls for MBC to televise basketball and football games, as well as other sports.

MBC will produce the games and sell the advertising time, but return a portion of those proceeds to the schools. Through licensing fees, ad sales and potential sponsorship opportunities, Mitchell estimates the deal could generate around $50 million over the life of the contract.

In other MBC sports news, network co-owner and former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield will premiere a new boxing league next year.

The World Boxing League Inc. will feature eight teams located in several major cities, competing for a world team title. The league finals could be slated for PPV distribution, said network officials.

For its part, upstart TV One — the network co-owned by Radio One Inc. and Comcast Corp. — has tapped actor and producer Tim Reid and TV personality/restaurateur Barbara Smith to help develop its programming lineup, according to network president and CEO Johnathan Rodgers.

Reid, who has starred in such sitcoms as Frank's Place and WKRP In Cincinnati, will take on the role as senior executive supervising producer for the TV One, advising it on strategic programming planning and production, Rodgers said.

In addition, Reid's New Millennium Studios will provide TV One with both library and original programming.

Smith's nationally syndicated lifestyle series, B. Smith With Style, will be the centerpiece of TV One's afternoon programming strategy targeting women. The network has acquired 144 episodes of the 30-minute series, along with 26 new installments that will air on TV One after their broadcast syndication window.

"TV One's afternoon block will feature lifestyles and informational-based programming targeted to women," Rodgers said, without revealing additional shows.

He said the network is also in discussions with actor/comedian and Radio One morning personality Steve Harvey about working with the network, including a possible simulcast.

In primetime, TV One will present a mix of acquired and original fare, said Rodgers.

The network is having talks with many established and up and coming African-American directors and producers in an effort to create original projects.

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.