When Black Broadcasting Network launches this quarter, it will bring much-needed diversity to the cable broadcasting and programming industry.
The network’s founders, Ricky Anderson and Yusef Muhammad, plan to carry sporting events from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a move that Anderson, an entertainment attorney, hopes will help the partners tap into the $26.6 billion cable advertising industry.
The partners, who are based in Houston, are currently in talks with Verizon FiOS to use that service as their cable carrier. They are also holding discussions with a satellite provider. As part of its media platform, BBN plans to use online and mobile connections to update subscribers on sports scores. “In addition to movies and entertainment, we are going to carry football and basketball from forty HBCUs, as well as boxing and the Professional Basketball League,” Muhammad says. “We are not trying to compete with the established sports networks like ESPN, NBC, or FOX. What we want is to cater to the eighteen to thirty-five-year-old, African-American male and female demographic and show the Black college experience.”
When launched, BBN would become the second Black-owned television network after TV One. TV One does not carry any sporting events, neither does Black Entertainment Television, which was founded by Robert Johnson, the African-American owner of the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Bobcats franchise, and is now owned by Time Warner Inc. “There is certainly money to be made in the demographic that we are targeting because they invest in all the new technology and have buying power,” says Anderson. “It is too early to tell where our ad projections will be, but overall there are three-hundred-and-sixty-five billion dollars spent on advertising in the world every year.”
The cable television market may be one of the few industries not affected by the current economic downturn. Advertising at Hispanic cable and mainstream cable television jumped 9.6 percent and 7.8 percent, respectively, in 2008, according to Nielsen Media Research, which tracks media advertising and television audience. Cable was one of the highest revenue-generating mediums, with $26.6 billion in sales, Nielsen’s most recent ad report says. The sector fared better than the rest of the media industry, which saw a 2.6 percent decline in advertising in 2008 from 2007. Advertising expenditures for the industry as a whole declined almost $3.7 billion to a total spend of $136.8 billion in 2008.
The idea of carrying sporting events for Black audiences is not new. Khary Bruyning, founder of Miami-based Rainforest Media & Tourism Consulting, marketed The Florida Classic Football Weekend when it was played in Tampa. “The key to reaching the eighteen to thirty-five African-American demographic is really through radio,” Bruyning says. “I was successful with the Florida Classic because in Florida people live and breathe football. Through radio, you can have regional programming and cater to different interest.” Advertising was a challenge, he adds, but BBN may benefit from the sudden interest in and demand for more diverse programming from minority groups that may soon be the majority.
“There is a browning of America where more and more people are realizing that we need diverse stories and programming,” Bruyning says. “Having national or regional television programming of HBCU schools may give the schools a chance to move up into Division-one status and that would be a plus for the schools and students.”