Hip-Hop’s Hype Takes Pay Angle


Former Family Channel president Tracy Lawrence will again test cable’s entrepreneurial waters, launching a hip-hop-based premium network in 2004.

The service, dubbed Hype TV (for Hot Young People’s Entertainment Television), will offer uncensored versions of popular rap and rhythm-and-blues music videos, as well as original public-affairs, movies and other content targeted toward the hip-hop community.

Lawrence, along with former Diva Systems Corp. programming head Peter Griffith, will make a second attempt at launching a hip-hop channel with Hype TV. The duo teamed up with rap-music entrepreneur Russell Simmons to create Fabulous TV, but they parted ways after Simmons chose to follow other entrepreneurial interests.

Hype TV, however, will be offered commercial-free as a premium service, which Lawrence believes will make the service more appealing to MSOs.

"We’ve had very positive reception from the affiliate community. [The premium-carriage option] lowers the bar in terms of distribution," she said, adding the service would be priced more on the level of a "mini-pay," which sell in the $3- to $5-per-month range.

The pay format would also help to differentiate it from other new urban or African-American-targeted networks such as Comcast Corp. and Radio One Inc. venture TV One or Major Broadcasting Corp.’s MBC Network, Lawrence said.

And it will allow Hype TV to stand apart from networks such as Black Entertainment Television and MTV: Music Television, which already offer heavy doses of hip-hop and rap music video programming.

Lawrence would not reveal start-up costs, but she said the network has secured an undisclosed amount of financing from Newbea Ventures, an investment fund backed by professional athletes such as Aaron Beasley of the National Football League’s New York Jets.

She added that the network would entertain outside investors, including MSOs, but it would remain predominately African-American-owned and operated.

For more on Hype TV, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page 1 of Monday’s Multichannel News