Aspire to Launch With Originals, Movies, ‘Bill Cosby’


Magic Johnson-run cable network
Aspire launches on Comcast on
Wednesday (June 27), bearing a mix of
original movie and documentary programming
and older off-network shows
and feature films, general manager Paul
Butler told Multichannel News.

Emphasizing “groundbreaking” and
inf luential entertainment and inspirational
programming, the African-
American targeted network kicks off
at 8 p.m. with an edition of the weekly
American Black Film Festival (ABFF)
series of independent films, documentaries
and shorts, Butler said. The twohour
Monday-night series will showcase
the works of up-and-coming African-
American filmmakers. “The show does
exactly what Aspire wants to do, which is
create a platform for the next generation
of groundbreakers and demonstrates our
commitment to independent filmmaking
and the independent creative community.”

Aspire joins a growing roster of channels
targeting the same audience, including
BET, TV One, Centric and Africa

Broadcast outlets Bounce TV and Soul
of the South, available via digital multicast,
also want African-American viewers,
who watch 40% more television on
average than the general population, according
to the Cabletelevision Advertising

Butler said other original programming
is in the
works for later
this year, but
wouldn’t reveal
specifics. It’ll
also air “I Aspire”
profiling upand-
coming African-
actors, musicians,
coaches, athletes and entrepreneurs
“to make sure people see the next
generation of African-American talent
across different fields.”

Tuesday nights feature groundbreaking
comedies including The Bill
Cosby Show
, which ran on NBC in
1969-71. Wednesdays will showcase
documentary programming such as
baseball-themed Harvard Park.

Movies including Sounder and Claudine
anchor the Thursday-night lineup,
while Fridays will showcase music
concerts and music-themed documentaries
such as the 2003 documentary
Dorothy Dandridge: Singing At Her

Saturday nights will feature a mix of
programming from the week and Sundays
will feature inspirational and faith-friendly programming.

Butler would not say how many subscribers Aspire — one
of four multicultural networks supported by Comcast under
the merger conditions that
allowed it to assume control
of NBCUniversal — will have
when it goes live, but it’s expected
to have at least 2.5 million
subscribers at launch.

Sources close to Comcast
have said the MSO will set aside
as many as 8 million subscribers
for the launch of the multicultural
networks. The others
are P Diddy-helmed music service Revolt, Robert Rodriguez-
supported entertainment service The El Rey Network
and Hispanic kids-themed service BabyFirst Americas.

“We will be in many of the top African-American markets
around the country, and we’re still projecting to be
in 11 million homes by next year,” Butler said, indicating
there could be another carriage deal signed, outside of
Comcast, before Wednesday’s launch.

The network is targeting African Americans ages 18 to
49, and inaugural sponsors include The L’Oreal Group,
Chrysler, Nationwide Insurance, Coca-Cola and Wal-
Mart, which have category exclusivity for an undisclosed

“What we’ve seen with the charter advertisers is that
they recognize the value of the African American audience,”
Butler, the former GMC general counsel, said. “It
really demonstrates the value of what Aspire is and reflecting
positive images of the African American community,
which has been our intent all along.”