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Lucas Takes TV One Reins

5/31/2011 8:01 AM Eastern

African-American targeted network TV One will get a new CEO in August as former The Weather Channel general
manager Wonya Lucas takes over the reins from retiring TV One founder Johnathan Rodgers, who will leave
the network in July. Lucas, who headed up The Weather Channel Networks from 2005 to 2008, will oversee the
day-to-day operations of the 53 million-subscriber African-American targeted network beginning Aug. 8. Lucas,
who was most recently executive vice president and chief operating officer for Discovery Channel and Science
Channel, recently spoke to Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the TV One brand and her plans
to take the network to the next level. An edited transcript follows.

MCN: What was the driving
force behind the move to
TV One?

Wonya Lucas: I think
mostly it was because of the
players involved, namely
Johnathan Rodgers, who is
still thought of so highly at
Discovery, and (Radio One
CEO Alfred Liggins). I have
watched TV One from afar
from the very beginning,
and just watching them get
a network started in this
environment and watching
them grow so quickly
and thrive is something I
thought was nothing short
of stellar. What was attractive
to me is the opportunity
to come in and manage
and take the network to
the next level, and to build
on what has already been
done.

MCN: How would you
define the TV One brand?

WL: I think the TV One
brand is evolving, but I
think if you look at their initial
reason for being, which
was to develop respectful
programming targeted to
African-Americans that
represented diverse voices,
I think that it’s still consistent
and will be the core element of the brand. For me, I
would like to do the brand-building things I was talking
about before. As an African-American, I will not take the
audience for granted, so I will really try to understand
what are the wants, needs and desires of the African-
American audience, and figure out what types of stories
aren’t being told that are resonating with the audience,
and how we can become truly solidified in the hearts
and minds of the audience.

MCN: Where do you see TV One’s strengths and
weaknesses?

WL: One of their
strengths is their
relationship with
Radio One. Being
part of Radio One,
they have immediate
access to a
pretty broad reach
among African-
Americans. From
a person who has
done media planning,
that’s a huge
advantage and
strength. I think
they’re starting to offer
scripted television, and
that’s not easy, so I applaud
them for that — that
could be a strength over
time. Also being part of the
Comcast/NBCU [NBCUniversal]
family is a strength.
Overall, I think the ownership
is their greatest
strength, and the thing
that has amazed me is how
passionate both owners
are about TV One.

Any weaknesses? I think
we have to get our awareness
up. Obviously, I’ll say
we need more distribution
— that would be a nobrainer.
I would also like to
see us with more original
programming on the air.
There’s a lot right now, but
I’d like to see how we can
broaden that to a certain
extent.

MCN: With regard to
original programming,
would you like to see more
scripted or reality programming
on the network?


WL: I really don’t know at
this point, but I would just
say more. I would have to
get in and see what’s available.
I just want to produce
programming that really hits the sweet part of the target,
so I’m not sure yet what that programming mix
would be.

MCN: The African-American market is in the midst of
change with Comcast promising to launch new African-
American owned-and-operated channels. How do you
see TV One fitting into what is expected to be a more
crowded marketplace?


WL: I actually think first and foremost that it’s great that
Comcast is focused on developing and giving distribution
to more African-American targeted networks. If
you look at the media landscape in general,
there’s more than one representation in radio
stations in any market, so why shouldn’t
there be more than one [African-American
targeted] network in cable? No one network
can represent us fully, nor should they —
it’s way too much of a burden. So I think the
more voices we have in the marketplace the
better, but at the end of the day you have to
be distinctive. What that means for TV One
is people have to understand who we are and
what we are. When there’s increased competition
you don’t want to just be known for one
show — I want people to come to us and feel
like we’re a destination for them.

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