Gospel Net Makes Family Pitch

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The Gospel Music Channel is hoping to enlist the First Ladies of predominately African-American churches in its push for carriage generally, and in particular on the new family-friendly cable tiers the industry is rolling out under pressure from Congress.

The network's DeEtta West, formerly with Turner, will speak to a group of 75 of those wives at a White House breakfast Jan. 17. The wives are in town over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend for their annual First Ladies Summit.

The First Lady of the land Barbara Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had been scheduled to be in that audience as well but reportedly may have to bow out over a conflict triggered by Liberia's election of its first woman president.

Even without the high-powered pair, the room will be full of influential women including from mega churches--10,000-15,000 members--who West wants to "encourage cable and satellite operators to carry the channel."

West will be a familiar face. As the wife of a former minister, this will be her third First Ladies' breakfast, though the first where she will be pitching the channel.

The channel is in 4 million digital homes in 75 markets but is still looking for carriage in top-10 markets New York, L.A., Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco and Washington.

Gospel is carried in its home town of Atlanta on Charter, though not on Comcast, the major provider there. It is also on in Houston on the Optical Entertainment Network, but again not on the principal carrier, Time Warner.

Gospel, which launched in October 2004, is run by a number of veteran cable execs, including President Charley Humbard, formerly of Discovery, and Vice Chairman Brad Siegel, formerly president of Turner Entertainment Networks.

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