Channel shutting down cable operation for move to the Internet
By Eve Samples
Palm Beach Post (April 26, 2007) To tune into the Black Family Channel, the cable
network founded eight years ago by Stuart lawyer Willie Gary, viewers will
soon need a mouse instead of a remote control.
Gary said Wednesday that he and other owners are finalizing a deal that
will move the channel and its programming to broadband, where people will
be able to watch shows on their own schedules.
The exception: the channel's several gospel music programs will start
airing on another cable network, the Atlanta-based Gospel Music Channel.
"It's the best strategy in these days and times," Gary said. "I'm just
convinced that pretty soon people are going to be watching television from
a cellphone. That's just the way it's going to be. They're going to be
watching what they want to watch, as opposed to what's forced on them."
Many cable and broadcast networks are using the Internet to supplement
their TV shows, but it's rare for a channel to completely migrate to
broadband, said Scott Sleek, director of broadband advisory services at
Pike & Fischer, a Silver Spring, Md.-based business and legal analysis
"This would not surprise me though, if it's struggling to get an
audience," Sleek said after learning of the Black Family Channel's plans.
"Moving to broadband allows them to get out of the ratings game, so they
don't necessarily have to worry about sweeps week and so forth."
The Atlanta-based Black Family Channel, which has about 16 million
viewers, has not been profitable in its cable form.
On broadband, the channel can have a more targeted approach to advertising
and more accurately track viewers, Sleek said. Plus, the advent of
products such as Apple Inc.'s Apple TV will soon make it easier for people
to watch Internet-based content on their televisions.
The Black Family Channel, which is aired locally on Comcast's digital
Channel 246 , has been working on the deal since December, Gary said. It
was originally expected to close Friday, but may take longer.
Comcast spokesman Reg Griffin said the company had no official word about
Black Family Channel's switch.
"As far as the transition that's going on there, we've only heard rumors,"
Griffin said Wednesday.
Two celebrity co-owners, heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and former
major leaguer Cecil Fielder, will remain. Time Warner and Comcast also
will have equity in the venture, as will Gospel Music Channel founder
Charley Humbard, Gary said.
Millions of dollars are changing hands as part of the arrangement, Gary
said, but he would not reveal the specific terms. Some of the Black Family
Channel's employees may move to the Gospel Music Channel.
When Gary founded the Black Family Channel, he planned to provide
African-American families with an alternative to the violence and sex
found on many cable channels.
The new format won't shift that goal, he said.
"It doesn't change a thing. Our mission is still out there - we're just
getting smart," Gary said. "Broadband doesn't have any competition at this
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