Comcast is adding two new African American-owned networks to its Xfinity TV lineups in January to satisfy a quota set during the 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal.
Cleo TV will be owned and operated by TV One parent, Urban One, which unveiled plans for the Cleo TV spinoff channel in August. It will target millennial and Gen X African American women, creating original content for an underserved segment. TV One general manager Michelle Rice is overseeing day-to-day operations of Cleo, according to cable TV and telecom site Multichannel News:
“We’re at a pivotal moment in history where women are making a huge impact in our society and culture, especially women of color,” Rice said. “We view young women of this time as rule breakers and standard bearers, so Cleo will focus on lifestyle and entertainment programming targeting millennial and Gen X women.”
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Afro is owned by New York-based production company Afrotainment, which has an office in Orlando. It will offer movies, dramas, sitcoms, music, talk, and late night comedy shows targeted mainly to African-American audiences.
“We celebrate the richness and diversity of the Black culture with original and exclusive content with our tagline ‘All Shades of Black,’” said Yves Bollanga, founder and CEO of Afrotainment. “It is important to recognize that the African-American community is not a homogeneous group. … They are Afro Caribbeans, Africans or Afro Hispanos who are young, educated, greatly underserved and represent substantial long-term revenue growth opportunities. We are excited to showcase all shades of the Black culture to millions of Xfinity viewers both live and on demand.”
When Comcast first acquired a majority stake in NBCU, it agreed with the Justice Department to launch 10 new independently owned channels across its cable systems by 2019, Variety reported. Eight of those channels had to be owned or operated primarily by minorities or people of color. So far, Comcast has launched six channels toward that quota including:
Cleo TV and Afro will bring the total to eight.
Shows like ABC comedy “Black-ish”, Issa Rae’s HBO comedy series “Insecure” and FX’s “Atlanta” all average more than 50-percent non-black viewership, according to Nielsen’s The 2016 Diverse Intelligence Series Report. Nearly 80 percent of the “Black-ish” audience is not African-American, and 61 percent of the “Insecure” audience is non-black, Nielsen reported.
“Even white people are tired of seeing white-people shows.” — Issa Rae.
The two new networks will launch with around eight-to-10 million subscribers — approximately the same number as Comcast’s six prior minority-owned network launches, according to Multichannel News.
Comcast and NBCU signed a memorandum of understanding in 2010 with the NAACP, National Urban League and National Action Network in 2010 to promote diversity. The agreement was endorsed by MSNBC host Al Sharpton and was considered a binding pledge toward obtaining FCC and Justice Department approval for the Comcast acquisition of NBC Universal, according to Hollywood Reporter.
Cleo TV will share some programming with TV One, notably some of the original movie productions, Variety reported. Cleo TV has also acquired several series produced for online platforms such as Issa Rae’s YouTube channel, and will invest in its own original short-form online content too.