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Yet Another New Black TV Network Is On The Horizon - Soul Of The South Debuts 5/27

by Tambay A. Obenson
April 18, 2013 12:14 PM
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Details from the press release... Soul Of The South Network - a 24-hour regional broadcast network targeting African American viewers in the South, and key Northern and mid-West "sister cities," will launch in 30 markets on Memorial Day Weekend, May 27, 2013. 

The launch comes following a $10 million infusion from a group of institutional investors and individuals including, Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA); Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC); Arkansas Capital Corporation (ACC); along with members of the private sector from the areas of sports, business, and entertainment.

Headquartered in Little Rock, AK, Soul of The South Network will expand to 50-60 DMA's (designated market areas) with high concentrations of African Americans and reach 30 - 40 million households by late summer 2013. 

Operating from a 30,000 square foot production facility that was formerly part of Equity Broadcasting, the new network will feature a lineup of what it calls "Southern-focused African American programming," local and national news, feature films, syndicated programming, court shows, variety and music based programming, all with a Southern focus, with an emphasis on "the unique cultural attributes and lifestyles of the South."

Maybe those of you in the south can explain what exactly "Southern-focused" means...

Edwin V. Avent will lead the marketing and sales efforts and anticipates success at this year's upfront marketplace. Says Avent, "In my 20 years of selling advertising, I have yet to see such unprecedented excitement from advertisers about the Southern markets and I expect that our ad sales team will be announcing a number of exciting partnerships in the coming months."

Larry Morton, former CEO of Equity Broadcasting Company and founder of Retro TV, will serve as Chief Operating Officer; and Frank Mercado-Valdes, former CEO of African Heritage Networks, will serve as Chief Strategic Officer.

Avent, Morton, and Mercado-Valdes will lead an experienced team of media veterans including; groundbreaking producer/director Doug McHenry who will serve as President of Entertainment; Carl McCaskill, Executive Vice President of Branding and Business Development; Maurice James is Senior Vice President of Network Production; Tom Jacobs is News Director; broadcast veteran Matthew L. Mixon will serve as General Manager of the flagship station based in Little Rock, Arkansas; Sherman Kizart will serve as Executive Vice President of Corporate Advertising Sales; former Johnson Publishing executive Jeff Burns Jr. will serve as Senior Vice President of Integrated marketing; Curtis Symonds, a former BET Senior Executive, will serve as Executive Vice President of Sports and Cable Distribution; Jeffrey Lyle will serve as Chief Technology Officer, managing the company's master control system in Little Rock, Arkansas through Gateway Media Technology; Jeff Timpa is Vice President of National Programming; National Ad Sales will be led by Vice President Adrianne Smith who will work in tandem with minority advertising firms MaxAD Media and Brandworks USA. TVI Media Sales will handle direct response advertising for the company. Terry Hines & Associates will handle corporate communications and marketing.

"Soul of the South will be broadcast television with a distinctly southern accent," says Doug McHenry, President of Entertainment. "There are many prominent African-Americans who hail from the South and we plan to involve them as integral parts of our programming strategy. This is an important content component of Soul of the South and we are proud to give voice to these talented Americans."

Says Chief Operating Officer Larry Morton, "We will create a unique distribution platform by combining full power television stations, Class A low power TV stations, and digital sub channels with cable. Soul of the South will be more similar to Univision or Telemundo than a traditional DIGINET. Our proprietary distribution technology, which was originally developed for Retro TV, has been updated with cloud-based servers that can provide custom feeds and operate up to 100 stations simultaneously from our Little Rock location."

Says Avent, "We anticipate a number of exciting developments over the coming weeks as we announce our programming schedule, station affiliate deals, and premium advertising sponsorships. This is a very special time for the people of the South. The South is experiencing a level of economic growth and a renaissance that is the envy of other regions. We are grateful that Soul of the South is part of that dynamic."

The network's website can be found here: www.SSN.TV.

I'll end with a question I've asked each time a new black TV network is announced - where will all the content come from to fill in all those hours of programming? Are the owners of these networks planning to make aggressive moves in acquiring strong original content - maybe looking to some of the black web series as potential pickups, or even signing up the producers of those series to create content for TV?

Recycling old TV shows and movies just isn't enough.

But maybe with its "southern focus" Soul Of The South is packaging itself as even more of a niche network, and the well from which they draw their programming isn't as wide and vast, making the selection process a bit easier.

We'll see. 

It's taken Oprah Winfrey 2 years to finally start to find her OWN groove, so I'll give all these new networks (Aspire, Bounce TV, Revolt, etc) a few more years to begin to come into their own and actually demonstrate impact and staying power.

But, if anything, the competition should be a good thing. I think it was partly responsible for BET's recent original programming push, which can be quite expensive. But it's a marathon, not a sprint. You strategically invest now with the hope that it'll all pay off later.

Watch the Soul Of The South promo below:

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  • Zeanie | February 2, 2014 11:30 PMReply

    ??Is it possible to put name's of singers on display, please.

  • Williem | September 22, 2013 12:09 AMReply

    Quantity is less important than quality. Bounce has a lot of programming that is good. They have variety and up to date shows and sports. They are in a position to get a broad range of viewers young, old, women, men. But Aspire seems to be struggling. Shows are old and the new talk show seems cheap and slow. A lot of their newer shows are still about people who are old (real old or dead) so it like an old show. They have a narrow range of viewer. The Aspire viewer is probably older black women and that's all. They need a spark their programming is weak. Even with Magic Johnson in charge I don't know if anyone is watching. BET has better shows lately but, TVone needs a new programming person. What happened to them? I used to watch them all the time. So I don't think we need more networks. We need good networks. More like Bounce. Less like Aspire and TVone.

  • Miles Ellison | April 21, 2013 9:40 PMReply

    This will not end well.

  • JMac | April 18, 2013 5:34 PMReply

    I would be happy with any network that places significant interest in serious daily news programs for the African American market. So far, none of the black networks have really tapped into news except for weekly topic programs or mostly entertainment news programs. I'm tired of going online for my daily fill ... or hearing about events not covered in mainstream media through word of mouth. I would think we'd be past that point but I guess news shows don't bring in enough money.

  • getthesenets | April 18, 2013 4:56 PMReply

    In terms of any original programming...a good and cheap way to do that is to find radio personalities who haves a follwing in the south among the demographic you're going after...........identify the ones who are photogenic....telegenic...and produce a talk show with them hosting

    @Alm, thanks for the info about Bounce and Aspire..

  • getthesenets | April 18, 2013 4:58 PM

    forgive the typos..

    "who haves a follwing"" personalities who have followings/audiences"

    I ain't be got no weapon..

  • ALM | April 18, 2013 3:17 PMReply

    I'm from the South, but I have a bad feeling about the term "southern focus".

    The term brings to mind stereotypical media and depictions that are offensive.

  • john | April 18, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    I don't get this. It's easy to say competing black networks will make the pie bigger and bring more choice. But that's not really how cable distribution works. You have to be in a significant amount of homes to bring in good subscriber revenue, and those amount of homes correlate to viewership and ad rates. So they have a significant hurdle to overcome and all the pie in the sky southern strategy stuff won't get it done.

    Also, instead of 4-5 competing black networks why not pool the resources under one strong vision with one strong brand and build from there? If OWN is struggling and it has the most powerful black woman in the world behind it, how will these others not also struggle?

  • lisa | September 4, 2013 8:30 PM

    Hi John

    You made a valid point regarding a significant hurdle to overcome and all the pie in the sky southern strategy stuff wont get it done. The only way any tv channel, station or network reaches success is by advertising and sponsorship revenues. If the advertising agencies that are handling advertisers that market to african amercians dont come up off their duff and start paying more money for advertising it wont work. Also african amercians will have to show support to only black tv channels, stations and networks for this to work. Neilsen ratings will then show what is taking place and the advertises will have dig deep in their pockets. African americans just done realize how powerful they are Neilsen ratings surveyed that by 2015 african american spending will reach $1.1 trillion dollars. Go figure

  • ALM | April 18, 2013 3:20 PM

    Yep, pooling resources makes more sense, but you more than likely have multiple people with multiple conflicting visions. They don't work to work together, because each person thinks that his or her vision is superior to the other person's vision of how African Americans should be portrayed in the media.

    I am still waiting on TVOne to reach its full potential. It started off beautifully, with a diverse collection of shows, i.e. "Divine Restoration", "Turning Up the Heat with G. Garvin", "Livin' It Up with Patti LaBelle", etc. but then it all fell off.

    I have heard that Cathy Hughes sold a large portion of the network, and that may be why TVOne has plummeted in quality.

  • getthesenets | April 18, 2013 2:08 PMReply

    the second wave of Black(owned?) network and cable channels is DIRECTLY tied to the financial success of Tyler Perry's films and television shows.

    Love him, hate him, respect or not.

    I say second wave because after BET, there were a handful of smaller cable and local broadcast channels here and there. BET and it's offshoot channels were just more widely known and accessible

    This Southern channel, seems to be a good idea because there are regional/cultural differences and nuances between different parts of the country..BUT.....Bounce TV already has HBCU sports...they had basketball and I think they have football. Football is king in the south...and unless this new "Black and Southern" channel has a deal in the works to broadcast weekly HBCU football....I don't know what they are going to do to separate themselves in the eyes of consumers from say Bounce TV.
    I assume Bounce is based in Atlanta ...

  • getthesenets | April 18, 2013 3:34 PM

    Once a market or market segment is identified, they are studied, tracked,etc .

    Tyler Perry has made millions via his plays, films and tv shows without really crossing over. I don't have the humbers, but I'm going to say that the Black audience MADE Tyler Perry...certain segments of the Black audience.

    Not a fluke, not a one hit wonder....consistent opening weekends, film grosses, tv show ratings, traveling show sales/dates

    None of this has gone unnoticed by advertisers and investors.

    Perry has identified an under-served segment of the Black population, has catered to them exclusively..and reaped the rewards. Now others are going to try to reach and sell products to the same market/similiar demographic.

    Terry McMillan was on best seller's lists....largely to Black women buying her books....and publishing companies rushed to sign other Black female writers to tap into that market.....whether they could write well or not.

  • ALM | April 18, 2013 3:21 PM

    Bounce is based in Atlanta, and so is Magic Johnson's Aspire network.

  • Nadia | April 18, 2013 3:09 PM

    "The second wave of Black(owned?) network and cable channels is DIRECTLY tied to the financial success of Tyler Perry's films and television shows."

    Explain. Serious question.

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