What ‘Soul Train’ Set in Motion
The television industry lost a
pioneer earlier this month in Soul Train producer
and host Don Cornelius.
Cornelius broke down walls with the threedecade
run of his syndicated series, selfdubbed
“the hippest trip in America” because
of its culture-defining, trend-setting content.
He opened TV’s doors to African-American
performers, actors, producers and writers both
in front of and behind the camera through perseverance,
hard work and soul.
African-Americans have progressed significantly on the boob tube since the early days of
Soul Train in the 1970s. African-American-targeted
cable networks such as BET, TV One, Centric
and Africa Channel — as well as recent broadcast upstarts
like Bounce TV — now offer scripted comedies, dramas and
documentaries; reality programming; music fare; and vintage
content for all to see. Including long blocks of Soul Train.
More is coming down the pike. Comcast still has yet to
reveal the two African-American owned-and-operated
channels it plans to launch in 2013, while Byron Allen’s
Legacy.TV and veteran cable executive Curtis
Symonds’ HBCU Net look to get up and
running this year. On the broadcast side, Kin
TV and Soul of the South look to reach black
viewers via broadcast multicast channels.
(See Cover Story.)
Other entertainment moguls such as Magic
Johnson, P Diddy, Tyler Perry, Pharrell Williams,
Bill Cosby and Whoopi Goldberg have
been rumored to be kicking the cable tires in
preparation for their own potential networks.
The hope is that these channels will provide
viewers with unique, differentiated, original
content that supplements the classic TV shows
and movies that currently make up a much the
If not, alternative distribution platforms on the Web are
gearing up to fill the void for original and creative video
content produced by and starring African-Americans.
That in itself would help build on Cornelius’ trailblazing
legacy, and would help secure more diverse TV programming
for the next generation of viewers.
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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.