magic johnson

Magic Johnson pulls the switch to launch his Aspire TV network

*(Via theGrio) – As the crowd counted down, Magic Johnson pulled a large silver lever jutting from a box labeled “ASPiRE.” With that, his new cable network went live.

Then stagehands whisked the contraption off the dais at Aspire’s gala premiere party Wednesday night. The switch was just a prop, of course, connected to nothing.

But Magic Johnson’s ties to the African-American community (not to mention sports history and contemporary culture) are direct and strong.

Now, the basketball great and business tycoon is leveraging his clout and good name to launch Aspire.

“We have a big platform for African-American work,” Johnson told the gathered. “Family driven content, positive images of African-Americans — that’s what we want that platform for!”

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Big aspirations, indeed, as Aspire makes its debut. Initially it’s available in about 7 million homes and in 16 of the top 25 African-American markets (including New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington). It can be seen by some customers served by Time Warner Cable Inc. and by Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable operator, which is introducing the minority-oriented Aspire as part of an agreement struck with the Federal Communications Commission when Comcast purchased NBC Universal.

Aspire’s reach will grow to 12 million homes by year’s end, to 20 million to 30 million homes by the end of 2013, and to 40 million homes within two years, according to Johnson.

“Focus groups told us African-Americans want more family content on TV,” he says a few hours before the party. “If they would have told me, ‘We don’t need another channel, there’s not an opportunity for you,’ we wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Read/learn more at theGrio.