While the overall television landscape is littered with all kinds of specialty channels, many of which seem redundant and directionless, what remains clear is that the medium is in dire need of more diversity.
Even with the much anticipated debut of Oprah's OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) at the top of the year, the lane is still fairly wide open for more niche programming.
Today, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and a group of businessmen and entertainment industry luminaries announced the formation of Bounce TV, with the aim of presenting the nation's first-ever, free, over-the-air broadcast television network designed exclusively for African-American audiences.
Set to launch this fall, the channel will target African-Americans primarily between the ages of 25-54 with 24-hour programming that will include movies, live sporting events, documentaries, inspirational faith-based programs, off-net series and original dramas.
Bounce TV's Founding Group and leadership team include Ambassador Young, Martin Luther King III, Andrew "Bo" Young III, television executives Ryan Glover and Jonathan Katz and filmmakers Rob Hardy and Will Packer.
"I am proud that our network will deliver free programming exclusively for our underserved community and be accessible to all homes around the country, and not just those who pay for television," said Young. "We look forward to Bounce TV entertaining African-American viewers for many years to come."
Hardy and Packer are the co-founders of Rainforest Films, one of the film industry's top black production companies. With films such as 'Stomp the Yard,' 'This Christmas,' and 'Takers' under their belt, the duo have become a formidable creative and box-office force in Hollywood.
Hardy will serve as chief content officer for Bounce TV, while Packer will be chief strategy and marketing officer.
The newly formed network also announced that it had acquired the television rights to nearly 400 African-American motion pictures in four individual, multi-year licensing agreements with NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, Sony Pictures Television, Codeblack Entertainment and Image Entertainment, respectively.
"[This is] one of the most significant advances African Americans have made in the entertainment industry," said Hollywood Black Film Festival founder Tanya Kersey. "It will be interesting to see how Bounce's entry into the TV business will affect the other networks, as African Americans are a large and loyal audience. It has the potential to dramatically alter the numbers for some of TV's top series who enjoy a large percentage of African-American viewers."
According to a spokesperson, Bounce TV will be majority owned and operated by African Americans, with Young, Hardy, Packer, and Glover as part of the initial ownership team. The network plans to leverage the marketing, digital, post-production, and operational resources of Atlanta-based CSE -- one of the country's leading independently owned sports, entertainment and television production agencies.
In targeting the black demographic, Bounce TV is moving into territory already occupied by basic cable networks such as Viacom's BET and Centric, and TV One, a joint venture of Comcast, NBC Universal and DirecTV. In 2008, the former chart-topping rapper Master P announced plans for Better Black TV (BBTV), a network designated to serve up "positive" programming for the African-American audience. Oscar winner Denzel Washington was reportedly a board member of the network, which never came to fruition. Three years earlier, the independently owned and operated Africa Channel launched, offering a mix of English-language programming from the African content.
Former BET producer and filmmaker Stefanie Frederic for one thinks Bounce TV comes at an opportune time, and is eager to see what it will offer."Competition is good," says Frederic, "and there's plenty of room at the table."