Preaching To The Choir


The ongoing Time Warner Cable/AMC Networks carriage negotiations took center stage at an unusual venue Thursday: The 16th annual Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Project Economic Summit Luncheon in New York led by Rev. Jesse Jackson.

WE TV executive VP and general manager Kim Martin took a minute during her introduction of the luncheon's star musical performers, gospel music duo and WE TV reality stars Mary Mary, to mention WE TV’s negotiations with Time Warner Cable. The MSO temporary extended its carriage deals with AMC Networks-owned WE TV and IFC that expired at the end of 2012.

If Time Warner drops WE TV, Martin told the mostly African-American luncheon crowd that they would be losing an outlet for diverse female voices and images on television. Martin’s remarks served as a rallying cry for WE TV as luncheon hostess Dr. Julianne Malveaux encouraged the audience to call Time Warner Cableto demand that WE TV stay on the air.

The economic empowerment theme of the luncheon, which featured a keynote address by former President Bill Clinton, was trumpeted by famed lawyer and former cable network owner Willie Gary, one of the luncheon’s honorees. Gary told me after the event that it’s still extremely difficult to launch an independent channel in today’s cable environment without the necessary financial resources.

Gary's African-American-targeted network Black Family Channel – which he co-owned with entertainer Marlon Jackson, and sports stars Evander Holyfield and Cecil Fielder – ceased operations in 2007 after failing to secure significant distribution to continue to fund the network. Black Family Channel eventually transferred its cable assets to Gospel Music Channel (GMC TV) as part of a partnership deal between the two networks.

To entrepreneurs looking to launch new cable networks, Gary said: “It’s so competitive and it’s takes a lot of money … good luck.”