Late in December of 2009, the Black Broadcasting Network (BBN) was launched on Verizon Fios TV Video On Demand (VOD). The Black owned and operated company will target the “urban” 18-34 year old demographic. The main focus of the programming on the BBN is programming that features African American and Latino artists, casts, comedians, producers, filmakers and athletes. Although your first reaction would be to question why do we need another channel that replicates what BET accomplishes on every cable system? I urge you to look a little deeper. After researching this network for a while, it reminds me of BET during the pre-Viacom days when the programming was diverse and proudly represented the African American culture. For example, there is a focus on Black College Sports combined with some Battle of the Bands, The Premier Basketball League and Ringside Boxing programming. Initially, the business, current affairs and news programming is somewhat limited, but it is expected that more programming will be added moving forward. There are plenty of independent movies as well as movies that have hit the box office. In fact, ‘Precious’ is already available for viewing on the network.
The one aspect where BBN is taking a unique and forward thinking approach is the method in which they are offering their content to people who do not have Verizon Fios. For a small fee of $3.99 per month, you can have complete access to all of the programming on BBN. Access is not limited to your desktop computer or laptop, but also includes mobile devices (click on this link on your mobile device for a preview) like an iPod, Sony PSP, iPhone and Microsoft Mobile Windows devices as well. This is definitely a wise decision which could provide a groundswell of new users who do not have (or want) access to Verizon Fios. Additonally, this could be a model follow and take note of.
There is definitely an opportunity for a new channel focused on the African American market to become a major player in television programming. Since the mid 1990’s there has been a dearth of quality African-American programming on television as a whole. The announcement of the Black Broadcast Network brings some cautious hope to the scene. The combination of their recent distribution deal with Verizon Fios as well as their mobile and web distribution strategy is a unique and promising start. Can they take advantage of the huge opportunity in front of them and eventually add-on additional distributors such as Direct TV, Time Warner Cable and Dish network? We will be watching closely to see their next move.