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Q&A: BTNC's Steve Pruitt


R. Thomas Umstead -- Multichannel News, 4/22/2008 10:00:00 AM


Q: What is the Black Television News Channel?



A: We've been working on this effort for about four years and it is a concept that J.C. (Watts) and I talked about when we first teamed up shortly after he left Capital Hill. I think a lot of our energy and inspiration comes out of what we saw and what we viewed of the media coverage coming out of Hurricane Katrina. I had a daughter down there and personally went through the evacuation process. Having seen it from the ground level and then seeing what ended up on TV was pretty inspiring in terms of getting this effort up and running.



Q: How will the network differ from what we currently see in terms of news coverage about African Americans?



A: It will differ in three ways. Number one, this will fundamentally be a news channel that the editorial policy, the news staff, writers and on-air talent will all come from the African-American community. Given our experiences in life and in the media in general, we believe that we'll look at things through a different prism. We may all see the same eight foot fish, but from a different perspective. We will be formatted much like a hybrid of Fox (News Channel) and CNN in terms of the news and special programming that we intend to do, but our personnel and editorial viewpoint -- and the people who are actually writing the news -- will give it a different perspective.



Q: Have you hired any on-air or production talent?



A: We're in discussions with some people right now.


Q: The network has already reached a distribution deal with Comcast for carriage in several cities (Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Baltimore). On what tier level does your Comcast deal provide distribution?



A: The network will be on digital and will also be offered in high-definition. We have at least three other agreements with other system and satellite providers that are in the process right now that we hope to be announcing very shortly.




Q: Other attempts at launching an African-American targeted news network on cable have failed, mainly due to lack of funding. Why do you feel you will be able to accomplish the feat?



A: I think we are mindful of the cost and the requirements of doing so and have taken that into account in building it. We've been very cautious and conservative in how we're building it, and what we think it will take to launch it. At this point we're fairly confident that we will have fulfilled all of our dreams and expectations.



Q: Can you put a number on how much funding you've put together?



A: More than the cost of a gallon of gas. We've been working very hard to put together the funding to start, and we hope in the next few weeks to close the final gap that we're working toward.



Q: When do you plan to launch the service?



A: Our objective is to launch in the first quarter, but internally we've talked about a February 09 launch as it relates to Black History Month, but there's a lot of pressure building to be up and operational by Jan. 20, 2009 (The day of the Presidential inauguration).



Q: Has the historic presidential run of Barack Obama at all influenced your decision to launch the network?



A: Absolutely. I think what that campaign has shown to a lot of African Americans, be they young or old, is that there are plenty of opportunities in America, and we just we want to make sure we take full advantage of ours.



Q: Cable's two African-American targeted networks, BET and TV One, are not offering significant news programming. BET has said its attempts at daily news shows did not draw a significant amount of viewers. Do you feel there's a large enough audience for African-American news programming?



A: There's plenty of empirical data that shows that African-Americans both watch news and desire to see news that speaks to their concerns and attitudes about current events, so yes we believe that the viewership is there. Our demographics will be different than certainly BET's, which focuses on a younger crowd.



Because we will be overwhelmingly original news programming almost hourly throughout the day, we feel we'll have enough content and enough information that folks will want to tune in and watch.



While our programming will be targeted to a specific demographic, we will get a much wider viewership than most people would anticipate because we think we will bring a different perspective that will be fresh and new and more reality-based than some of the current coverage that we see today.

http://www.multichannel.com/article/...k+news+channel
 

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yawn. I give it not even a year before failure
 

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I concur. BET couldn't draw news viewers because there's not enough "black" news that's not covered in other news outlets.


Also, limiting oneself to some 13% of the population (of which a large percentage still aren't interested) is a poor business decision.
 

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Actually what shocked many is that for so long there was only one Black channel when the market is large enough to support two or three channels.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_E...ent_Television

Quote:
Competitors


BET's success, and the controversy over its content, has spawned a few smaller competitors aiming toward the African-American market. Although some like NUE TV (New Urban Entertainment Television) and Black Family Channel (formerly MBC) had little success, others like TV One have thrived and succeeded, mostly by eschewing BET's music-based programming for more family-oriented fare. However these networks are mostly watched by older African-Americans and BET continues to be mostly watched by the youth. A possible new arrival to Internet TV and broadcasting, The African American Channel, is making an attempt to enter the picture. Broadcasting and Cable magazine pointed out that The African American Channel could become a competitor of BET and others such as Black Family Channel and TV One in the not so distant future. There was an article in September 2007 that touched on this a bit ( http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6478750.html ).

I've lived in various parts of the country. I remember the days of analog cable when BET wasn't available on many systems in places like Minnesota or even Silicon Valley. It would be hard to imagine BET not on the basic tier in New Orleans or Detroit. If Fox News and CNN can cater their news to specific demographics, I don't see why this station can't. They just need to stick to a model of low-cost sourcing like Voom's HDNews channel, and they will be fine.
 

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In the Boston market we don't have BET AT ALL in MOST areas.


Some BET on demand,BET Jazz but BET itself nowhere to be found even on digital.
 

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Quote:
Number one, this will fundamentally be a news channel that the editorial policy, the news staff, writers and on-air talent will all come from the African-American community.

How African-American does one have to be? Is the "community" literal or figurative?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD /forum/post/13723989


How African-American does one have to be? Is the "community" literal or figurative?

I'm guessing White Americans of South African descent need not apply.
 

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Meanwhile the White News Network is currently broadcast on one low wattage UHF station in Montana.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by reuthermonkey /forum/post/13721489


I concur. BET couldn't draw news viewers because there's not enough "black" news that's not covered in other news outlets.


Also, limiting oneself to some 13% of the population (of which a large percentage still aren't interested) is a poor business decision.

I don't see what difference it makes. Not every network has to adopt the blandest programming slate possible so that it appeals to a broad audience. That thinking seems to be at the heart of the watering down of many once interesting networks, and personally, I find this "mainstream-ization" of channels like AMC, A&E, G4, and Bravo idiotic. Networks diluting their brand identity in favor of larger audiences makes no more sense than Joe Sixpack thinking he has to launch a nationwide hardware chain the likes of Home Depot to have a successful business model in the consumer home improvement sector.


The market is strong enough to support a diverse slate of networks, and advertisers and cable systems are sophisticated enough to want to enable and target smaller/niche audiences. I'm sure the research shows that targeted advertising is a more effective means of reaching the intended audience than generic advertising is, so while these networks might bring in fewer viewers, they're more valuable to everyone.


In the end, BTN isn't going to be operating on a CNN level budget. So long as management sets its budget based on an accurate expectation of the number of eyeballs the channel should expect to draw, it can and will thrive. (Though, on a separate note, perhaps it's worth asking why you'd think a black news network could only appeal to African Americans. I watch movies on Starz inBlack even though I'm not, for instance.)


But enough of my rant. I think this channel just goes to show where the technology is today. I'd be surprised if we see any new networks launching without an HD component going forward.
 

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How many agree that if there were a White News Network, or even a Red News Network (I know, I know), that it would be called racist by other minority groups, and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would be all over the media? This double-standard horseshit makes me ill.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kil4Thril /forum/post/13738593


How many agree that if there were a White News Network, or even a Red News Network (I know, I know), that it would be called racist by other minority groups, and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would be all over the media? This double-standard horseshit makes me ill.

You've already got a white news network. It's run by Fox.


I certainly see the need for a news channel with a different perspective such as Black Television News, and I'm not African American.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanSaysYo /forum/post/13739172


You've already got a white news network. It's run by Fox.


I certainly see the need for a news channel with a different perspective such as Black Television News, and I'm not African American.

I dont feel that news needs any racial perspective period. News should be news, report what is relevant and report accurate information without the editorial comments and unnecessary bias.


The problem with most news stations today is the inability to actually report the news.


Once again we do as we have always done, focus on race and nothing more.
 

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Quote:
I dont feel that news needs any racial perspective period. News should be news, report what is relevant and report accurate information without the editorial comments and unnecessary bias.

And that's exactly the point. Most networks don't fairly and accurately report the news; one's too far to the left, another to the right, etc., etc,. I don't mean to be political, but balance/fairness is mostly dead, as everyone seems to have an agenda of some sort.


Networks like these come about when a segment or demographic feel left out via under/misreporting on mainstream TV/radio.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by rezzy /forum/post/13739278


And that's exactly the point. Most networks don't fairly and accurately report the news; one's too far to the left, another to the right, etc., etc,. I don't mean to be political, but balance/fairness is mostly dead, as everyone seems to have an agenda of some sort.


Networks like these come about when a segment or demographic feel left out via under/misreporting on mainstream TV/radio.

And a news network that is dedicated to a single demographic is not going to have an agenda or an unbalanced view point on news?
 

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I was strongly agreeing with you in the quote. However, theory and actuality are two different worlds in the news reporting universe.


If one cannot get into a "game" (whatever that game is), they can just go out and start their own. Though the point in bringing your unrepresented voice is to balance the ship, not capsize it (not saying it's going to turn out exactly like that).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by rezzy /forum/post/13739589


I was strongly agreeing with you in the quote. However, theory and actuality are two different worlds in the news reporting universe.


If one cannot get into a "game" (whatever that game is), they can just go out and start their own. Though the point in bringing your unrepresented voice is to balance the ship, not capsize it (not saying it's going to turn out exactly like that).

Fair enough, I was unclear on the point you were making.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Posty-McPost /forum/post/13738408


Meanwhile the White News Network is currently broadcast on one low wattage UHF station in Montana.

Wow, they get FOX News OTA in Montana?
 

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sigh...why is it people can just appoint themselves as advocates of a community, when no one is asking that of them? I'm sorry, but I can't stand it when networks overtly try to target the black audience. I don't need representation by someone that only "looks" like me, that's the last thing on my mind.


Things I don't care about: "Black" pride, entertainment, or representation


Things I do care about: My relationship with God, equal rights, and High Defintion


hey at least they got that much right
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kil4Thril /forum/post/13738593


How many agree that if there were a White News Network, or even a Red News Network (I know, I know), that it would be called racist by other minority groups, and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would be all over the media? This double-standard horseshit makes me ill.

I think technically it would be called Caucasian News Network.



I'm actually surprised surprised they are calling it Black News Channel instead of African American News Channel. I've never understood the whole origin-American thing? Are you American, or are you the other origin's nationality?


I give this station props for starting off in HD.
 
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