Annual Edition 'Buying Power of
Black America' report breaks down billions in expenditures Black
consumers are responding to tighter economic condition by focusing more of
their spending on items and services that improve their homes and
lifestyle. That's one of the trends revealed in the 15th annual report,
"The Buying Power of Black America," published by Target Market News. The
report analyzes spending for black households in 2008 and finds that
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BET exec Curtis Symonds to debut sports oriented HBCU Network in 2011
By R. Thomas Umstead
Multichannel News (September 13, 2010) Historically Black Colleges and Universities
will have a cable channel to call their own next summer with the
proposed launch of the independently-owned and sports-themed HBCU
The basic-cable service, targeting African-American and multicultural
high school and college- aged students will be anchored by live Division
I and II college sports programming from the major HBCU sports
conferences, as well as HBCU-produced educational and entertainment
programming, according to network CEO and former BET executive Curtis
"This is an opportunity to talk about the 143-year history of HBCUs and
provide opportunities for their growth and future prosperity and target
a demographic that advertisers want to reach," Symonds told Multichannel
Independent holding company C3 Media LLC, comprising veteran cable
executives Symonds, Clint Evans and Candace Walker, hold a majority
financial stake in HBCU Network, which will be based in Atlanta. Symonds
noted that the group is talking to other potential investors, but would
not reveal specifics.
"We have some strong entities that have expressed interest in the
channel and we're making good progress," he said.
The schools as a collective will hold a 20% interest in the channel,
according to Symonds.
The network, which is expected to debut officially in August 2011, may
roll out a "soft launch" in time for Black History Month next February,
HBCU Network is currently in carriage talks with several MSOs, although
no deals have been reached. Representatives from Comcast Cable confirmed
talks with HBCU Network officials, but would not elaborate. Time Warner
Cable, Cox Communications and Charter Communications could not be
reached for comment by press time.
Symonds projects that the network will launch with 10 million
subscribers -- mostly through digital-basic and sports tier
distribution. The network is proposing a monthly 7.5-cent per subscriber
license fee -- well below the rates for other national college
sports-oriented networks like ESPNU (17 cents) or CBS College Sports (22
cents) or the more than $1 fee charged by many regional sports networks,
according to research firm SNL Kagan.
The network's primary focus is to launch within the 20-state HBCU
footprint, encompassing the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Southern regions
of the country, according to Evans, the network's executive vice
president of distribution and marketing.
HBCU Net will focus primarily on sports programming, devoting the
majority of its primetime and weekend schedules to live and repeat
telecasts of college action, according to Walker, who will serve as
executive vice president of programming for the network.
HBCU Network is expected to offer live Division I & Division II Black
College Sports events from the four major HBCU Conferences -- the
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Southwestern Athletic Conference,
Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Central Intercollegiate
The network has worked out a deal with ESPN -- which currently has
multiyear rights to SWAC and MEAC college football contests -- to select
conference games once the sports giant has chosen its primary games for
"We are also working to lock up deals with the SIAC and the CIAA
conferences," Symonds added.
The network is also planning to create a daily SportsCenter-esque HBCU
sports studio show to run during the mornings, as well as a daily news
show with information from HBCU schools, according to Walker.
While sports will serve as the staple of the network's primetime, Walker
said the rest of the schedule will feature acquired and originally
produced lifestyles programming that will designed to capture the
culture, heritage and lifestyle of the HBCU community. She would not
reveal specific programming titles.
A major component of the schedule will also include "edutainment"
programming - a mix of educationally-based and entertainment programming
mostly aggregated from various colleges and universities, including
guest lectures, celebrity speakers and on-campus entertainment
performances, according to Walker.
She would not disclose the network's programming budget, but said it
will be an "adequate amount to deliver HD sports programming, some
acquisition and originals that tap into the lifestyle and culture of the
Symonds says the network will not in compete with BET or TV One for
African-American viewers, but rather will flank those services.
"It's a complement to what is currently in the marketplace that will
hopefully allow people to look at the culture in a different way,"
TV One president Johnathan Rodgers also doesn't see HBCU Network as a
competitor, and in fact is in talks with HBCU Network to handle its
administrative, legal and operational functions.
"I love the idea of the HBCU Network, and Curtis has been helpful to us
throughout our six-year existence," Rodgers said. "In order to help him
achieve success, we're in conversations to handle many of their back-end
and backroom functions."