Fledgling black networks carve out space

When Angela Palmer of NUE-TV talks to nonminority audiences about the fledgling cable network she works for, she asks them to imagine how they would feel if they woke up one day and the only television channel that offered anything aimed at their culture was MTV.

Her point: There's room for more channels than 20-year-old Black Entertainment Television, recently bought by Viacom.

"For so long, there's only been one network, but it doesn't reflect the entire urban market," says Ms. Palmer, director of business development at New Urban Entertainment in Chevy Chase, Md., which wants to attract an older, more sophisticated audience (18 to 49 year olds) than BET, and has been on some cable systems since July.

It's an idea others have also had. In addition to NUE-TV, backed by entertainer Quincy Jones, at least two other new networks are going after the African-American and urban markets.

Also competing for space on cable boxes are the Urban Broadcasting Co. in New York and the Major Broadcasting Cable Network in Atlanta. UBC has already launched the Web part of its planned interactive approach and expects to debut on cable in March or April. The MBC Network has been building its cable presence aimed at families since 1998 and includes boxer Evander Holyfield among its officers.

Though madly inking deals with providers like Time Warner Cable and Cox Cable, the networks are still shy of the 25 million subscribers BET founder Robert Johnson says they'll need to get advertisers to notice them - which is more significant now that Viacom is their competition.

"They have a very tough, tough challenge," he says. "I'm not saying they won't succeed, but one thing I can guarantee you, they will not succeed as totally African-American-owned entities without bringing in additional capital or resources from other sources."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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