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The first all-black movie cable channel, BET Movies/STARZ!3, a joint venture between BET Holdings Inc. (No. 10 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list) and Encore Media Corp., bows before a nationwide audience in February.
“The time is right for consumers to see more black movies on a regular schedule,” says BET Chairman and CEO Robert L. Johnson. Subscribers, he says, can expect to see feature films like Seven and Pulp Fiction along with independent and classic black films. The channel faces increased competition from TV networks like UPN and the WB that target minorities.
Johnson collaborated with Encore Media Chairman and CEO John J. Sie on the venture, which subscribers can get for about $5 per month. While BET is already carried in 46.4 million cable households nationwide, Johnson and Sie are negotiating with cable operators to see how many will pick up the new channel.
R. Thomas Umstead, senior editor at Multichannel News, cautions that channel distribution negotiations with cable operators and satellite providers is key to the channel’s success.