Bounce TV Says It's Already Profitable

Year-old network nears Nielsen deal to attract more ad dollars
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As Bounce TV nears its first birthday, the African- American-targeted broadcast network says it’s already turning a profit and is ready to invest in Nielsen ratings so it can expand on its successful launch.

“I am proud to say that after 12 months, the network is profitable and thriving,” says Bounce COO Jonathan Katz. “We’ve seen ratings and revenue growth at a level and pace that’s really unheard of for a young network.”

Bounce was launched by a group including Martin Luther King III and Andrew Young Jr. The net has grown distribution to 65 million households, representing about 80% of African-American homes, via digital multicast signals. (On its birthday, Sept. 26, Bounce will launch in Detroit on a digital channel operated by market leader WXYZ.) Bounce signed deals with nearly every major Hollywood studio, securing hundreds of ! lms with strong appeal to African-American viewers. The net also recently renewed its agreement with the CIAA conference, enabling it to air live college football and basketball games featuring African-American schools.

“We premiered three original series, including a scripted sitcom, with more in development and to be announced,” Katz says.

But with Bounce needing ratings numbers to really cash in on its success, it is finalizing a deal with Nielsen that could kick in as early as the fourth quarter. “Several of our affiliates share local ratings, and we’ve seen steady growth,” Katz says, noting the channel has sometimes beaten broadcast competitors as well as cable networks including TV One. “Given the strong local ratings, and initial national numbers that Nielsen shared with us, we are taking an unprecedented step for a young network [to be] nationally rated after just 12 months on the air,” he adds.

Being a broadcast network is a big point of difference for Bounce. Katz notes that a quarter of African- American homes don’t subscribe to cable or satellite.

Without ratings, Bounce TV has been running mostly direct-response advertising. But it also has a core of a dozen early advertisers starting with Toyota and Nissan, which both reupped for year two, plus GM and Chrysler, which signed on during the upfront. Katz says Bounce is expanding its New York ad sales team to keep up with demand.

Deborah Gray-Young, VP and media director at Burrell Communications, which buys African- American media for Toyota, has been impressed with Bounce’s “explosive” growth. “The way that they were approaching this was really rather brilliant, so I’m not at all surprised it’s been successful coming out of the gate,” she says.

Gray-Young says she’s encouraged by Bounce TV’s distribution and by the local ratings she’s seen; she renewed Toyota’s buy at levels similar to last year. “Without having numbers to really further substantiate what we’re assuming, keeping the investment level is fair,” she says. “We expect to have [ratings] numbers shortly, and if we see an opportunity to increase investment, we’ll do that.”

Affiliates are also pleased with the way the network bounces. “We feel it’s a great vehicle to really serve our community,” says Pat LaPlatney, VP-digital media and business development for Raycom, whose stations reach 12.3% of the U.S. and almost 20% of African- American homes. “It’s generating audience and we’re selling it well. So it’s worked on every level.”

Raycom, which owns an equity interest in the network, doesn’t get Nielsen ratings for Bounce TV, but LaPlatney says, “You know people are watching because the direct response schedules are working.”

In New Orleans, Bounce’s ratings are running just 1 point behind MyNetworkTV affiliate WUPL and ahead of NewsWatch 15, Belo’s digital news channel, according to Gary Wordlaw, general manager of Bounce in the Crescent City, where the network airs on a digital channel from Fox affiliate WVUE.

Wordlaw says the network is creating new viewers among people who feel national TV doesn’t program to the African-American community, while at the same time forging a new advertising base.

“I went out today and made about a half-dozen cold calls. Of that half-dozen, three people want call-backs, one is going to write me a check tomorrow. That never happened to me,” Wordlaw says. “So I’m creating through Bounce TV a whole other group of advertisers who are rallying around this channel because it’s reaching into the community that they serve.”

The next step is creating local programming. “The Bounce people are very interested in those stations that can create some local programming that also might be carried nationally by Bounce,” Wordlaw adds. “And New Orleans is a natural for that. But right now, we want to crawl before we walk.”

E-mail comments to jlafayette@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette

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