As part of the its ongoing diversity pledge to federal regulators who blessed its 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal, Comcast said it will launch two African-American majority owned networks in January 2019.
The company said the selection of Afro and Cleo TV, both offering African-American entertainment, followed a “thorough evaluation of dozens of proposals” for new networks.
In order to secure the OK to buy NBCU, Comcast agreed to launch 10 new independently owned and operated networks by 2019 — eight of them owned or operated by minorities. The six launched thus far include El Rey, Aspire, Revolt, BabyFirst Americas, El Rey, Kids Central and Primo TV.
“The offerings from both Afro and Cleo TV serve as an excellent complement to the growing catalog of programming choices we offer about global black communities,” said Keesha Boyd, Executive Director, Multicultural Products at Comcast Cable. “We remain committed to delivering a wide array of programming by partnering with independent networks, such as the two we’re announcing today, to better serve our increasingly diverse customer base.”
Afro is run by Afrotainment, a Florida-based company with studios in Orlando and Queens, N.Y., whose portfolio includes eight networks available on pay-TV systems or available over-the-top. It describes Afro as a “polycultural black network” featuring Nollywood and black movies, dramas, sitcoms, music, talk, and late-night comedy shows. Yves Bollanga, founder and CEO of Afrotainment, said the selection by Comcast “is a recognition of the rich diversity in black content and culture.”
Cleo TV (short for Cleopatra) is a lifestyle and entertainment network targeting millennial and Gen X women of color, from Urban One (formerly Radio One). Its short- and long-form programming spans travel, home design, cooking, talk shows, movies, docu-series and sitcoms.
“We’re at a pivotal moment in history where women are making a huge impact in our society and culture, especially women of color,” said Michelle Rice, GM of TV One, a cable network owned by Urban One. “Cleo TV will offer a diverse mix of lifestyle and entertainment content through the unique lens of Millennial and young Gen-X women of color, an audience segment that is currently underserved.”
In evaluating proposals, Comcast said its main criteria were: the content of the network; whether the network is fully financed; whether the network’s ownership and/or management group(s) are well established, have relevant experience, and are substantially owned by African-Americans; whether the network is already launched and has existing or potential MVPD distribution; price; and perceived value to Comcast and its customers.
The announcement follows a related dust-up earlier this week, when President Donald Trump re-tweeted a Fox Business report about an American Cable Association letter to the Department of Justice. While it didn’t dwell on diversity, the trade group’s letter called for an investigation of Comcast for its conduct since acquiring NBCU. Even before the consent decree acquisition expired in September, the ACA maintains, Comcast has used NBCU in an anti-competitive fashion. Comcast said the trade group’s assertions were “without merit.”