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Soul of the South Network to debut Memorial Weekend with $10 million investment

(April 18, 2013) Soul of the South Network, a 24-hour regional broadcast network targeting African-American viewers in the South, and key Northern and mid-West "sister cities," will launch in 30 markets on Memorial Day Weekend, May 27, 2013. The highly anticipated launch comes following a $10 million infusion from a group of prominent institutional investors and individuals including, Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA); Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC); Arkansas Capital Corporation (ACC); along with members of the private sector from the areas of sports, business, and entertainment. 

The combination of private investments and state incentives was orchestrated largely through the combined efforts of lead investors Judge Richard Mays, former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice and history-making civil rights attorney, who will serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors, and Edwin V. Avent (pictured), who will serve as Chief Executive Officer of Soul of the South's General Partner. Christopher Rankin Clark, Esq., formerly of Dewey & LeBoeuf, LLP, structured the deal and will serve as Executive Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs. Angel investor, Mississippi farmer Matthew J. Gruber, will serve as Vice Chairman of the Board.

Says Mays, "It's exciting to be working with Avent and his team of dedicated professionals to build a network that will glorify the city and region where I was born and raised." Continuing Mays adds, "We are anxious to provide national television audiences with a platform with which to celebrate and honor the culture of the south, especially African-Americans."

Under the leadership of Arkansas Governor Michael Beebe, the state has aggressively pursued and invested in creating jobs to form a more diverse base of local industries.

"This is exciting news for Arkansas, as both an economic-development project and as a cultural enterprise," Governor Beebe said. "We are proud to be the point of origin for the signal of Southern culture and diversity that Soul of the South will send into millions of American homes."

Headquartered in Little Rock, Soul of the South Network will expand to 50-60 DMA's with high concentrations of African Americans and reach 30 - 40 million households by late summer 2013. Operating from a 30,000 square foot production facility that was formerly part of Equity Broadcasting, Soul of the South Network will feature a lineup of Southern focused African-American programming, and local and national news, with an emphasis on the unique cultural attributes and lifestyles of the South. The network will broadcast a mix of off-network syndication, feature films, court shows, variety and music based programming, all with a Southern focus.

Edwin V. Avent, who has extensive experience in print, radio, events and media sales, will lead the marketing and sales efforts and anticipates success at this year's upfront marketplace. Says Avent, "In my 20 years of selling advertising, I have yet to see such unprecedented excitement from advertisers about the Southern markets and I expect that our ad sales team will be announcing a number of exciting partnerships in the coming months."

Larry Morton, a digital broadcast pioneer, the former CEO of Equity Broadcasting Company and founder of Retro TV, will serve as Chief Operating Officer; and Frank Mercado-Valdes, former CEO of African Heritage Networks, will serve as Chief Strategic Officer.

Avent, Morton, and Mercado-Valdes will lead an experienced team of media veterans including; groundbreaking producer/director Doug McHenry who will serve as President of Entertainment; Carl McCaskill, Executive Vice President of Branding and Business Development; Maurice James is Senior Vice President of Network Production; Tom Jacobs is News Director; broadcast veteran Matthew L. Mixon will serve as General Manager of the flagship station based in Little Rock, Arkansas; Sherman Kizart will serve as Executive Vice President of Corporate Advertising Sales; former Johnson Publishing executive Jeff Burns Jr. will serve as Senior Vice President of Integrated marketing; Curtis Symonds, a former BET Senior Executive, will serve as Executive Vice President of Sports and Cable Distribution; Jeffrey Lyle will serve as Chief Technology Officer, managing the company's master control system in Little Rock, Arkansas through Gateway Media Technology; Jeff Timpa is Vice President of National Programming; National Ad Sales will be led by Vice President Adrianne Smith who will work in tandem with minority advertising firms MaxAD Media and Brandworks USA. TVI Media Sales will handle direct response advertising for the company. Terry Hines & Associates will handle corporate communications and marketing.

"Soul of the South will be broadcast television with a distinctly southern accent," says Doug McHenry, President of Entertainment, whose film and television projects helped usher in the wave of new Black cinema. "There are many prominent African-Americans who hail from the South and we plan to involve them as integral parts of our programming strategy. This is an important content component of Soul of the South and we are proud to give voice to these talented Americans."

Says Chief Operating Officer Larry Morton, "We will create a unique distribution platform by combining full power television stations, Class A low power TV stations, and digital sub channels with cable. Soul of the South will be more similar to Univision or Telemundo than a traditional DIGINET. Our proprietary distribution technology, which was originally developed for Retro TV, has been updated with cloud-based servers that can provide custom feeds and operate up to 100 stations simultaneously from our Little Rock location." Continuing he adds, "Our partnership with Jeff Lyle and Gateway Media Technology will keep us on the cutting edge of broadcast delivery."

It is Soul of the South Network's focus on technology that attracted ADFA and Vice President Gene Eagle. ADFA provided a portion of its funding from a technology based equity infusion it received from the US Department of Treasury's State Small Business Initiative through the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. Eagle thanked the ADFA Board of Directors for their support of the deal saying, "ADFA's co-investment in Soul of the South Network through the Venture Capital Investment Trust is a fabulous example of our state's comprehensive strategy designed to build and grow qualified business enterprises in Arkansas."

Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA), Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), and Arkansas Capital Corporation (ACC) approved the funding and tax incentives needed to ensure the eventual creation of more than 150 jobs by SOS Media Holdings. ADFA will contribute more than $1 million in equity financing and AEDC approved a half a million dollar renovation grant and more than $1.5 million dollars in tax credits, while ACC, a private non-profit agency, approved a $1.5 million SBA backed mortgage to purchase the SOS Media Holdings headquarters studio facility.

Soul of the South Network's headquarters and studio facility will also house a state-of-the-art news center with 24-hour production capacity. The broadcaster will also establish news bureaus in each of the 12 Southern capitals. Sister company, Southern Soul Broadcasting, will manage stations in Chicago, Philadelphia, Tallahassee, Montgomery, Jackson, MS, Atlanta and Raleigh, NC, in addition to its Little Rock full power flagship station. News veterans Tom Jacobs and Matthew L. Mixon will lead news operations and a national search for multi-cultural news talent. The network plans to ramp up to six hours of news programming per day within its first year of operation.

Says Avent, "We anticipate a number of exciting developments over the coming weeks as we announce our programming schedule, station affiliate deals, and premium advertising sponsorships. This is a very special time for the people of the South. The South is experiencing a level of economic growth and a renaissance that is the envy of other regions. We are grateful that Soul of the South is part of that dynamic."

For a look at Soul of the South Network's promo go to: www.SSN.TV.

Soul of the South (SOS) is an Arkansas based Limited Partnership which will own and operate SSN Networks, Southern Soul Broadcasting and Gateway Media Technologies, in partnership with experienced veteran operators. Based in Little Rock Arkansas in a 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art studio facility, the company will have satellite offices in New York City, Chicago, Baltimore/DC and Philadelphia. SOS will be the only state certified minority owned company to operate a national broadcast television network, local broadcast stations, its own master control and its own uplink satellite/cloud technology center.

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