AspireTV’s Ambition to Own Black Lifestyle

By UPtv / Aspire InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: AspireTV’s Ambition to Own Black Lifestyle

Lifestyle television is broadly defined as aspirational programming centered on the home décor/renovation, culinary arts and shopping, and it has never been more popular. Networks across the board are leaning into the audience's insatiable appetite for how to repair homes, find the best furnishings and uncover fantastic recipes. Even as lifestyle programming has grown, representation in front of the camera has been slow to keep pace. However, research has shown that despite the lack of diversity, Black audiences are highly engaged in lifestyle programming. Enter AspireTV; a network focused on the Black consumer and an outsized ambition to own the Black lifestyle market.

AspireTV, part of UP Entertainment, is one of the preeminent networks focused on Black viewers and their adjoining lifestyle and unique perspectives. AspireTV has the expressed mission to authentically represent the Black community in all its facets. Understanding the Black consumer's viewing habits was crucial to shaping the network's vision for Black lifestyle programming.

The foundation and ensuing ambition to own Black lifestyle have been developed under the leadership of Senior Vice President of Multicultural Networks and Strategy at UP Entertainment, Melissa Ingram (pictured at top). When asked about what motivated the focus on lifestyle programming, Ingram says, "We understand the value of representation. We know what it means when you turn on the TV, and you don't see yourself, your style, your culture, and your aesthetic being reflected, and we wanted to change that. We desired to live at the intersection of Black culture and urban lifestyle."

Ingram keenly understood that to do that, they would have to rely on the brand equity built via their "five-pillar" approach. Those "pillars," on which AspireTV rests its brand, are the intentions to Eat, Live, Shop, Play and Dream. "Our mission is to empower the black audience, not just to eat but to eat well; not just to live but to live well; not just to shop, but to shop with purpose and intention; not just to play hard but to work hard, and then, most importantly, not just to dream, but to dream big," Ingram explains.

When outsized ambition meets brand mission, it manifests itself in a slate of new programming that continues to distinguish AspireTV from the pack. New shows like Side by Side, featuring twins Malika and Khadijah Haqq and Just Angela,starring actress and entrepreneur Angela Simmonshave joined a roster with stalwarts like Butter + Brown and Unboxed with Nikki Chu. Sports programming in the form of HBCU 101 and Fast Break and the airing of CIAA conference basketball games round out options that connect deeply with audiences.

Looking up and down the AspireTV lineup, it is easy to see how they so effortlessly fill the void of Black representation that is glaringly obvious on other networks. The only solution to the willful absence displayed across most mainstream media is purposeful excellence. And that excellence, in turn, serves to attract winning talent -- an essential part of Ingram's plan. "I am humbled when talent tells me I am with AspireTV or I'm choosing to play here with AspireTV because of you, because of your vision, because I believe in you," she says.

As the battle for diverse talents escalates, AspireTV has positioned itself to win there as well, which will only support their leadership in the Black lifestyle category.

There is no doubt that 2020 was a challenging year, putting pressure on 2021 to deliver across the board. But there is a special recognition that winning and success as represented by AspireTV is a collaborative effort. Winning in the lifestyle space isn't just about a category: It's also about culture and the power of being seen. As Ingram says, "I feel like I've been blessed to steer and shepherd this brand, and it is my responsibility to reflect our culture and our people and make them proud."

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