Comcast Corp. is adding two new African American majority-owned independent networks to be broadly distributed on Comcast Cable systems beginning in January 2019. The selected networks, AFRO and CLEO TV, will showcase programming that highlights and features black communities around the diaspora. The announcement, however, came just days before a federal appeals court cleared the way for Bryon Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks to pursue a $20 billion lawsuit against the cable operator on the grounds of racial discrimination.
More Representation In Media
TV One’s Cleo TV focuses on lifestyle and entertainment content targeting young women of color. Afro, which is owned by the Florida-based company Afrotainment, features movies, TV series, and other programming representing cultures in Africa and across the globe. In addition to being broadly distributed on Comcast Xfinity, the channels will be offered on Comcast’s basic tier digital platform in select markets, making them available to millions of subscribers online. This will provide the networks with a major boost and help fill the void in the lack of quality and diverse black-oriented media content.
“The offerings from both AFRO and CLEO TV serve as an excellent complement to the growing catalog of programming choices we offer about global black communities,” said Keesha Boyd, executive director, Multicultural Products at Comcast Cable, in a statement. “We remain committed to delivering a wide array of programming by partnering with independent networks, such as the two we’re announcing today, to better serve our increasingly diverse customer base.”
The announcement is part of a bigger deal that Comcast inked with the FCC and DOJ back in 2011 when it acquired NBCUniversal. In order to receive federal approval for the merger, Comcast agreed to launch eight minority-owned and/or –operated networks. This included ASPiRE in 2012 and REVOLT in 2013 along with four Hispanic-focused channels.
“We are excited to bring AFRO’s live content and growing on-demand catalog of more than 300 hours of original programming to millions of Xfinity customers. Comcast’s selection of AFRO, which is a recognition of the rich diversity in black content and culture, solidifies our position as a leader in polycultural black home entertainment in North America,” said Yves Bollanga, founder and CEO of Afrotainment, in the statement.
“We’re at a pivotal moment in history where women are making a huge impact in our society and culture, especially women of color,” said Michelle Rice, TV One’s general manager. “CLEO TV will offer a diverse mix of lifestyle and entertainment content through the unique lens of millennial and young Gen-X women of color, an audience segment that is currently underserved.”
On Monday, a federal appellate court ruled that Entertainment Studios can pursue a lawsuit against Comcast for alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act, according to Variety. The company has also been granted legal clearance for a similar suit against Charter Communications for $10 billion. Allen, a media titan who graced the May/June 2018 cover of BLACK ENTERPRISE, claims that both Comcast and Charter refuse to carry his networks because of his race. The comedian-turned-mogul settled a similar suit back in 2015 with AT&T’s Direct TV, which now carries seven channels produced by his company.