Heritage on Demand

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Films starring Halle Berry or spotlighting such icons as Rosa Parks and Jim Brown will be available on Home Box Office’s subscription on demand service, as the premium network offers 15 years worth of African American-oriented original content during the month of February.

HBO on Demand will present the Black History Month area from Jan. 31 to Feb. 27, according to Lucinda Desir, director of strategic partnerships and emerging markets. It offered a similar on-demand destination last September, for Hispanic Heritage Month.

HBO On Demand will feature more than 20 hours of original movies and documentaries, including Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, starring Berry; Mighty Times: the Legacy of Rosa Parks; Jim Brown: All-American; The Josephine Baker Story; Unchained Memories: Readings From the Slave Narratives; and Spike Lee’s 4 Little Girls.

“What we wanted to do is outline and showcase the fact that we’ve been in this space for a long time, telling stories that are relevant,” Desir said. “We decided to go back to 15 years of storytelling so viewers can check out the depth and breadth of programming for African-American audiences.”

Desir said HBO research confirms that African-Americans, who represent 23% of the net’s subscribers, are heavy on-demand users.

“African-Americans and Hispanics are early adopters of any technology, so we felt that this is an area where we didn’t have to do much user education,” she said.

The on-demand offering is being supported by a fully integrated marketing campaign dubbed, “Our History and Our Stories: 15 Years of Storytelling.” HBO will team up with a number of cable affiliates in heavily populated African-American markets like New York City; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Detroit; Houston; Hampton Roads, Va.; and Milwaukee to disseminate cross-channel spots and radio spots that support the on-demand effort.

The network will also offer a free DVD from one of three movies — Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Tuskegee Airmen and Boycott — for anyone who signs up for HBO during the month of February.

Elsewhere, to coincide with Black History Month, VH1 Soul will reformat its lineup to include 10 separate themed music-video programming blocks, rather than its current mix of subgenres.

Network officials said the blocks on the network, currently with 20 million subscribers, will include: “The Soul Player,” which samples the network’s full range of music videos; “Top 10”; “Best in Soul,” a weekly countdown of the top 10 soul and R&B videos, with occasional artist visits; “Soulphrodisiac,” featuring “sexy, soulful love songs and ballads”; “Live Soul,” featuring live concert performances and music videos; and “Island Soul,” airing reggae, socca, calypso, ska, dance hall and reggaeton videos.

“This relaunch reflects VH1 Soul’s growth into a true destination,” VH1 Digital Television senior vice president and general manager Eric Sherman said in a statement. “We’re building on our community of R&B music lovers by offering specific events and programming blocks that enhance the network’s accessibility and enjoyment.”

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