Better Late Than Never for African-American NetsNew multicast networks Soul of the South, KIN TV are talking about summer launches, but time will tell 6/18/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
When plans were revealed for a pair of start-up
multicast networks targeting African-American
viewers and competing with Bounce TV, the space
looked as lively as any. But as the third quarter approaches,
principals at the new concepts, KIN TV and Soul of the South,
have realized just how hard it is to bring their channels to life.
Soul of the South had initially
pegged the first quarter
for its debut; network executives
are now saying the first
half of September. KIN TV,
which no longer has MGM on
board, is shooting for August
with a modest launch group.
As execs at the established
digital networks happily note,
there is a big difference between
issuing a press release
about a new channel and actually
getting it on the air.
“This thing is not a perfect
science,” says Chip Harwood,
Soul of the South senior distribution
consultant and a veteran of the digi-net world.
Soul of the South’s holdup, say its execs, is tied to the decision
to launch its own master control operation, which they
say will go live in Little Rock, Ark., in the next few weeks.
“We decided to step back and get a handle on technology
and infrastructure,” says chairman/CEO Edwin Avent.
Soul aims to set itself apart with a trio of newscasts—content
coming from headquarters, from affiliates, and from a
dozen or so bureaus around the South. With massive political
spending targeting TV news come fall, the network has
incentive to be on the air by then.
Some affiliates have taken the delays in stride. “The African-
American market is vastly under-served,” says William Ballard,
president and general manager at WIAT Birmingham (Ala.).
“I think there’s a huge opportunity to provide free over-theair
television to this community.”
Others are less patient. At least one station is in advanced
talks to bump Soul of the
South in favor of This TV, with
the station’s GM saying he is
losing money with a placeholder
on his multicast tier.
KIN TV, meanwhile, is
targeting a mid-August soft
launch for five to 10 stations.
“We’re still very much alive,”
insists CEO Lee Gaither.
That’s despite some big setbacks.
Initially, MGM was said
to be a distribution partner;
now it’s not. Some Fox-owned
MyNetworkTV stations were
lined up to air KIN, but a Fox
representative says that’s no
longer the case. Gaither says former NBA star Charles Barkley
remains a KIN partner. “He’s involved in every content decision,”
says Gaither. (Barkley’s management confirmed his role.)
Bounce TV, meanwhile, has 70 partner stations and introduces
its first two original series this week.
Industry insiders say it costs anywhere from $5 million to
$20 million (and up) to get a digi-net up and running. Some,
like the concept known as .2, never see the light of day.
Skeptics abound, but the chiefs at Soul of the South and
KIN say they’ll get on the air—soon. “I feel very strongly
we’ll launch by [September],” Soul’s Avent says.