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.
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: