Andrew Young, Martin Luther King III among founders
By Jon Lafayette -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/3/2011 10:15:00 PM
A group led by Ambassador Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III is expected on Monday to announce plans to launch a new over-the-air television network aimed at African-American audiences in the fall.
Based in Atlanta, Bounce TV, is trying to line up distribution through the digital signals of local television stations. It plans to broadcast a mix of theatrical movies, live sports, off-net series and original programming aimed at adults 25-54. It has made deals to acquire TV rights to 400 African-American oriented films from NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, Sony Pictures Television, Codeblack Entertainment and Image Entertainment.
Bounce TV will be run by a founding group comprised of Young and King and Andrew "Bo" Young III. The co-founders of African-American-owned production company Rainforest Films are also involved, with Rob Hardy serving as chief content officer and Will Packer holding the title chief strategy and marketing officer. Also involved in management are two former Turner Broadcasting executives, Ryan Glover and Jonathan Katz, who have been named executive VPs.
"My father envisioned the day that African Americans would play major roles in entertainment within ownership, not just serve as entertainers on the stage or in front of the cameras. That's what makes this even more exciting to me as we embark on this new endeavor of an independently owned and operated broadcast television network featuring African Americans," said King
Former executive VP of U.S. syndication sales for Sony Pictures Television, Jeffrey Wolf, will handle network distribution of Bounce TV. The network plans to offer half of its ad time for insertion by local affiliates.
Bounce TV will be televising football and basketball from the nation's largest African American athletic conference, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, under a rights agreement with Urban Sports Entertainment Group. The network will air the CIAA Championship football and some quarter and semi-final CIAA tournament basketball games.
Atlanta -based CSE, an independent sports, entertainment and television production agency, will provide marketing, digital, post-production and operational resources.
In targeting African-Americans, Bounce TV is moving into territory already occupied by cable networks such as Viacom's BET and TV One, a joint venture of Comcast, NBC Universal and DirecTV.
"There are nearly 13 million Hispanic television households that are served by dozens of Spanish and Spanish-language versions of networks. Yet, the more than 14 million African American TV households have just a few dedicated cable channels - and no over-the-air networks," said Glover. "Bounce TV will fill the need for an over-the-air television network exclusively for African Americans. At the same time, local broadcasters are looking for digital programming, as well as African American-skewing product. Bounce TV will fill both of those market needs for local broadcasters."
"I am proud that our network will deliver free programming exclusively for our under-served community and be accessible to all homes around the country and not just those who pay for television," added Young.
A couple of networks targeting Hispanic viewers have used broadcast station digital networks to gain distribution, including Estrella TV and LATV.
Most TV stations are still trying to figure out the best way to make use of the extra channels they got when broadcasting converted from analog to digital. Some stations have used the channels to provide news or weather services.
ABC last year launched the Live Well channel designed to air high-quality programming produced by its owned and operated stations. A few Belo stations have signed up for Live Well.
"Bounce TV is a new model; a demo-specific network designed for digital carriage that we believe is well-timed for the marketplace," said Wolf. "We have built a smart and efficient business model created by people with the decades of television and entertainment experience. The initial response from stations has been overwhelmingly positive and we expect advertisers to embrace Bounce TV as well."
Bounce TV's package of films from NBCU is comprised of about 200 titles including Ray, The Hurricane, Do the Right Thing and Car Wash. Sony Pictures has licensed 100 titles, including Philadelphia, Glory, Ali and Boyz' n The Hood.
Codeblack Entertainment is a new content company focused on African-American and urban audiences. The package it has licensed to Bounce TV has 50 movies and documentaries featuring such stars as Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Williams, Bill Cosby and Terrence Howard. Bounce is also getting 50 comedies and dramas. The stars of the comedies include Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Charles Dutton, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.
"We are launching as an entertainment-based network, built upon a foundation of movies for the African American audience," said Glover. "As the network grows we will execute on Rob Hardy's creative vision for original programming, plans of which are already in development."
UPDATE: May 6, 2011 - Read about the network's new distribution deal and a link to their website here