Station to gear TV to blacks with launch in 2012 - Dateline: Arkansas
By Paul Quinn
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. --A television network based in Little Rock and geared toward blacks is set to launch in the first quarter of 2012.
Soul of the South Network will offer five hours a day of live daily news, as well as entertainment, sports and cultural programming, according to a recent news release.
Soul of the South Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Edwin V. Avent said in a phone interview that the station would be on digital substations in at least 50 markets across the South and in northern cities with large black populations.
When TV stations converted to digital broadcasting in 2009, it allowed them to create substations, tripling the number of stations available without cable or satellite. Avent said that has allowed him the opportunity to start a niche network.
Soul of the South will be part of a growing number of networks aimed at black viewers, including BET, also known as Black Entertainment Television, which can be found on cable and satellite. Bounce TV, which launched in September on different digital substations, offers movies and other programs.
"We believe that the African-American population throughout the South has been underserved,'' Avent said. " A large part of our broadcast is focused on the local markets.''
The new network will be financed by Avent, who recently sold Heart & Soul magazine, which focuses on women's health. He added that capital would be raised elsewhere, but didn't elaborate.
He said the startup budget is about $10 million, which will go toward producing content, purchasing rights from major studios and establishing networks across the region and elsewhere.
Avent said he picked Little Rock because he wanted to purchase equipment from defunct Equity Media Holdings, a Little Rock-based broadcasting company that went bankrupt in 2008.
Equity's one-time chief executive officer, Larry Morton, will be president. Morton was replaced in the months leading up to its bankruptcy. He launched Retro Television Network, now RTV, which also uses digital substations to broadcast older movies and TV shows from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Morton said Soul of the South should be able to avoid the problems that Equity had because it's a " totally different model.''
"The Equity problem stems from other issues related to the overall television industry and owning so many TV stations,'' he said. "The station ownership model is highly reliant on financing and borrowing money; the network operation is not.''
Avent's concept has doubters.
Alan Gould, a media and entertainment analyst with New York City-based Evercore Partners, said there are hundreds of programs on cable and satellite, and thousands of options on Netflix, on demand, on Amazon and other broadcasting media, and that it will be difficult to draw watchers away from everything that is available.
" It's tough to create a new niche,'' he added. " You already have BET and (Bounce TV). ... The question is how it's going to differentiate itself.''
Avent said Soul of the South will generate revenue through local advertising.
In buying Equity's equipment, Soul of the South will be able to reach 80 markets at once through a centralized satellite system.
Avent said that the company also hopes different cable providers, such as Comcast or Time Warner, will pick up Soul of the South.
The network schedule will include a two-hour morning news show based in Atlanta, a one-hour evening news broadcast, and " Capitol Eye,'' a half-hour hosted news and opinion show focusing on Southern capitals and politics. It will also show college sports from black colleges throughout the South.
Soul of the South will offer its broadcast in cities with a high concentrations of blacks in the North, including Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Nelson Mandela, who became one of the world’s most beloved statesmen and a colossus of the 20th century when he emerged from 27 years in prison to negotiate an end to white minority rule in South Africa, has died. He was 95.
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