Panel: Don’t Wait to Roll Out Ethnic Fare

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New York— Minority viewers are hungry for programming that reflects themselves and their culture. But if MSOs are slow in rolling out such networks, the industry may lose quality programming — and, eventually, subscribers — to other emerging distribution platforms such as broadband and the telcos, according to network executives speaking at last week’s National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications Conference here.

With the continued growth of minorities, executives from The Africa Channel, Caribbean-based Tempo network, Middle East-based news service Al Jazeera International and Asian-American-oriented AZN Television said there is increasing demand for cable operators to provide programming that appeals to such audiences.

The industry, though, has historically been slow to launch minority-targeted networks.

But the panelists said cable isn’t the only distribution platform available to them.

Al Jazeera International commercial director Lindsey Oliver said the service could be streamed via broadband if operators are slow to reach carriage agreements. She added that there is significant U.S. interest in the global news service — more than 85% of e-mails and visits to the network’s Web site (english.aljazeera.net) are from Americans.

“If you’re not providing the news and information that people want, then the industry will lose out,” Oliver said.

Still, the networks prefer cable.

“There’s an incredible interest in seeing oneself on television,” said Frederick Morton, founder of MTV Networks-owned service Tempo. “What we’re talking about is going to core and true identity of people.

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