Cable Operators

Comcast: Multicultural Nets Will Launch on Digital Basic at ‘Fair Rate’

3/12/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Four new multicultural-
themed networks will get a launch gift of
8 million subscribers from Comcast Cable,
according to sources close to the situation.

The four channels — African-American
targeted Aspire and Revolt, and Hispanicthemed
services El Rey
Network and BabyFirst
Americas — will also receive
a “fair” licensing fee
from Comcast as part of its
launch, according to David
Cohen, Comcast’s executive
vice president.

Comcast will launch the
channels between April
of this year and January of
2014 as part of the voluntary merger conditions
that allowed it to assume control of NBCUniversal.
Overall, the Philadelphia-based
operator has said it will launch 10 new independent
channels over the next eight years,
including eight that are owned-and-operated
by Hispanics and African-Americans.

Cohen told Multichannel News last
Wednesday during a reception for the network
founders (see Through the Wire) — Earvin “Magic” Johnson (Aspire), Sean
“P. Diddy” Combs (Revolt), Robert Rodriguez
(El Rey Network) and Constantino
“Said” Schwarz (BabyFirst Americas) — that
the networks would receive “very substantial
launches,” but he would not reveal specifics.

Sources close to the networks, however,
confi rmed that the networks would launch
on Comcast’s highly penetrated digital-basic
tier, with around 8 million subscribers.

Cohen also said the
programmers would receive
“fair rates,” but
would not provide details.

“We understand that
none of these networks
will be successful if they
only are carried on Comcast,”
he said. “We tried
to give them enough of
a head start at launch to
give them exposure and a real shot in the
arm, and so that they can sell these networks
to other cable and satellite providers
and telcos right off the bat.”

Cohen said the MSO would most likely go
through another selection process to choose
the remaining six of the 10 new networks it has
committed to launch under the NBCU deal.

Cohen said if any of the chosen networks
is not successful, the MSO would not look
to replace it with another minority-ownedand-operated service. “I’m not interested in
launching a network that isn’t going to be
successful,” he said.

Johnson said he’s committed to successfully
operating and launching Aspire, a
family-friendly, entertainment-based network
targeting African-American audiences,
this June. “I’ve built my brand in urban
America, I know what African-Americans
want, and I will deliver,” he said.

Combs said Comcast’s commitment to
the four multicultural-themed networks
— including his Revolt service, a 24-hour
music entertainment channel which he defined as the “CNN or ESPN for music” that
will launch in 2013 — is a major step toward
off ering more diversity on television.

Said Rodriguez, whose entertainment
programming-themed El Rey Network will
target Hispanic households: “No longer do
we have to go and protest for more representation
on television because we have
that now … We have a direct pipeline to
people to show them stories and tell them
what we want to say and have a voice.”

September