Black-Owned Media Upfront, Day Two: More New Nets, Bigger Bundles … and a Legal Salvo

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Round two of this year's Black-Owned Media Upfront, held this past Wednesday and organized through Allen Media Group, was no letdown from round one the previous afternoon. (You can read my report on the first day here.) The parade of coming attractions from participating organizations continued, opening on a bombshell note with entrepreneur Byron Allen's announcement -- minutes into the virtual proceedings -- of a multi-billion lawsuit against Nielsen, the TV industry's major source of audience measurement.

The Big Message: There are top advertisers willing to spend big on media ventures owned by African Americans, and far more advertisers and ad agencies should follow their inventive practices, Allen asserted throughout the showcase. "I'm here to embrace you," he declared. "I'm here to be your brother. We want you to succeed."

The accuracy of audience tracking for Black and other multicultural populations must improve dramatically, Allen said in explaining his decision to challenge Nielsen via a lawsuit, alleging that the company's system continually undercounts viewership for his company's content. "The smaller the audience, the bigger the mistake," he suggested. "At a certain point, we have to stop whining, stop complaining and do something about it." [Note: As of this writing Nielsen had not released a public comment on the lawsuit.]

Host: Allen made good on his promise from day one to highlight advertisers that make a major investment in Black-owned TV ventures and not just call out bad actors.

What Worked: Detailing the approaches of Procter & Gamble and Google for this marketplace before turning to individual content presentations. In P&G's case, one-third of their annual allocation to African American-owned TV goes to specific campaigns, another third to programmatic buys on digital services and the rest on program sponsorships. Google's strategy goes beyond campaigns to give networks carriage on YouTube TV and upgrading their ad technology. Both companies offer a template for thoughtful, comprehensive relationships with Black-owned media, according to Allen and other speakers.

What Also Worked: Having a chatroom and a separate space to forward questions among the speakers available throughout the session. As it did on day one, the chatroom ran on overdrive from start to finish. After the conclusion of day two, registered attendees (more than 2,000) were e-mailed a full list of participants from both days to reach out to and engage.

What Didn't Work: A pair of ventures mentioning new or future TV channels in passing without much detail. In Urban Edge Networks' case, no thoughts about the just-launched Black Girls Rock service. For Steed Media Group, leaving people in the dark about Hotel, a project distributed through smart TV sets and devices later this year. "It will house Black imagination," said Chief Executive Officer Munson Steed. We wanted more.

Data Points: Viewers of The Grio.TV's new multi-channel bundle (launched two months ago) average three hours a day on average; 75 percent of the audience with Local Now, another multi-channel bundle, are part of, or have, young families.

News: Look for Allen Media Group's set of smart TV-distributed multi-channel bundles to expand their lineups over the rest of 2022.

Grio.TV's package, now at 29 channels and more than 1,000 movies and TV episodes, will increase to 65 channels by the end of next week. Local Now's collection of 400 channels and 12,000 titles, incorporating hyper-localized news, sports and culture coverage in 230 markets, will be supplemented by the introduction of subject-specific channels and short-term celebrations of various holidays. Genre bundle Sports.TV has 75 channels in its stable, with plans to add at least 10 channels a month.

In other Allen Media Group developments, syndicator Entertainment Studios will premiere a weekend block of historically Black college/university sports competitions this fall, and has additional daytime court, game and The Weather Channel-generated series in the pipeline for fall 2023-2025.

Turning to individual services, Central City Productions is moving ahead with launching Stellar TV Network this summer, described as a family friendly entertainment/lifestyle center. Live music performances, dance competitions and talk shows are on the initial original series menu, with P&G aboard as a charter advertiser. Urban Edge Networks is preparing to co-launch The Grambling Channel in partnership with the famed university later this year, presenting a variety of content featuring the university's students, alumni and campus activities. Roland Martin's Black Star Network, launched last fall, has a number of new series devoted to law issues, cooking and other topics coming out this summer and fall.

As for the Black-Owned Media Exchange clearinghouse unveiled during day one, 23 companies have signed on to provide info on their media ventures, with others working arrangements out.

Parting Words: "We're here to help you connect with audiences in an authentic way. We're here to have you do more, do better and do it now." -- Byron Allen

"We do what CNN cannot do … speak to the interest of our people." --Roland Martin, Black Star Network founder

"This is a movement about engaging and driving opportunities. We're not going to take scatter money as a definition of success." -- Todd Brown, founder of Urban Edge Networks/HBCU League Pass+ and The Yard Inc.

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