Johnathan Rodgers, the former president of Discovery Networks U.S., is behind a new Washington, D.C.-based cable channel aimed at African American adult viewers. The venture is backed by U.S. cable company Comcast Corporation and Radio One, a radio broadcasting company also targeting African American and urban audiences.
Tentatively titled TV One, the channel is scheduled to launch by January 2004 and will feature sitcoms, dramas, reality shows and news docs. ‘I’m bringing with me my learning from the Discovery networks,’ says Rodgers. ‘I believe in the lifestyle doc, the kind of shows we did at TLC, such as A Wedding Story, A Baby Story and Trading Spaces. We’ll do those types of shows, but with African Americans or people in urban situations. Economically, it’s a way I can bring fresh, original programming to the channel sooner than later.’
Still, Rodgers says much of the outlet’s initial programming will be acquired, and admits TV One’s pockets aren’t as deep as his former employer’s. ‘We are a start-up. As our distribution grows, so too does our budget,’ he says. ‘At the same time, I’m not going to pass on a good project because of the price, if it’s something that will benefit our distribution and our viewers.’
TV One already has an established competitor. Black Entertainment Television (BET) in Washington, D.C., which was bought by media giant Viacom in 2000 for US$3 billion, has targeted African American viewers for 23 years. But, Rodgers argues, BET attracts a younger audience than TV One aims to woo. Although his channel will target the 18-to-49 demographic, he explains, it will focus on viewers 33 to 36 years of age. He continues, ‘Of all the channels I’ve looked at, [U.S. pay-TV channel] HBO does the best programming to the African American adult community. In fact, I’m modeling many of our programming attributes off theirs.’