*Bounce TV, the latest broadcast media outlet to target the African American audience has launched. However, the network, backed by such well-known figures as former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and Martin Luther King, III (son of the civil rights icon), offers little that is new or original. Instead, its first program was “The Wiz” – the 33-year-old black version of the Wizard of Oz – staring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.
Atlanta-based Bounce TV then followed “The Wiz” with a schedule which included “A Raisin in the Sun,” Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” a week of Richard Pryor comedies and reruns of such classics as “Soul Train.” Like other broadcast and cable media targeting blacks there is precious little news and information programming.
Is this the only way to appeal to the African American audience? Bounce claims to be going after an older black audience than 31-year-old Black Entertainment Television – the current king-of-the-hill. However, Bounce president Ryan Glover immediately added that the new network is packed with old movies because they have “proven playability among black audiences.”
In other words, do not expect much new from Bounce despite being owned by names like Young and King. Here is why: Despite regular criticism of programming which many feel places too much emphasis on shallow entertainment, Bob Johnson was able to sell BET to media giant Viacom in 2000 for $3 billion and BET is still going strong. Second, the most recent venture to launch with new and original programming – Oprah Winfrey’s OWN – has thus far been a failure, despite the Winfrey name.
In part, Bounce is afraid of repeating that mistake. Bounce starts out well. It airs on the digital signals of local television stations, rather than cable. Plus it is already available in half of American households and 64 percent of African American households. The issue is can it carve out a niche which distinguishes it from BET, TV One and at least two other black-oriented ventures which are expected to start-up later this year or early next year.
Glover realizes the problem the new network faces saying, “The quicker we grow into originals … the better.”
The question facing Glover and the heads of the other start-up is “Does the black audience actually want news and information programming” or is shallow entertainment just fine?
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