Samuels: VOD’s Part of TV One’s Menu

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Upstart African-American targeted network TV One will offer a video-on-demand component as part of its pitch to operators later this year, according to recently named executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Brad Samuels.

The Comcast Corp. and Radio One Inc.-owned network, currently in 4.5 million homes, is presently seeking distribution on analog and digital basic-cable lineups — especially those in the top 10 African-American markets.

TV One has carriage agreements so far with top U.S. cable company Comcast, which owns 39% of the network, and with Insight Communications Co., the ninth-biggest cable company and one that’s half-owned by Comcast.

Comcast strongly emphasizes “free” on-demand programming within its product mix, in an effort to get customers to use its digital platform more often. Insight also offers a wide array of VOD fare.

'HIGH INTEREST’

Samuels, formerly executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing for Comedy Central, said the VOD component will most likely be launched later this year, although he would not provide specifics on VOD programming.

He did say that MSO and DBS executives have expressed a “high level of interest” in launching the service, which will offer entertainment and public affairs programming targeted to 18-54 African-American demographic.

“I see [TV One] as a real intriguing concept — a new entry into an undeserved category that’s getting executed in the right way by people who really know how to do it,” Samuels said. “It’s not a matter of if [operators will launch the service], but when.”

Samuels does admit the current cable environment is more difficult to launch a new network than in the mid 1990s when Comedy Central began its subscriber quest, but he says that TV One’s appeal to an underserved audience will allow it to stand above other upstart networks.

“There’s certainly more channels available, so [operators] are being more selective and raising the bar as to what a network needs to do to serve their interest,” Samuels said. “But if you come and make [operators] believe that you can drive their digital business by satisfying an audience through your marketing expertise there’s definitely interest in adding product.”

To that end, Samuels said the network, through planned targeted marketing campaigns, will help operators promote other new technologies such as telephony and digital cable to the African-American cable subscriber.

ROOM FOR MORE

Operators also should not have to choose between offering established network Black Entertainment Television and TV One because both networks are inherently different even though they both target African-American audiences.

“People realize that there’s plenty of room for more than one network,” Samuels said. “This very segment of the population watches a lot of mainstream programming but also has some interests that are not been met in terms of cultural relevant programming. What we’re trying to do is something different from BET in terms of the age of our audience and the nature of the content.”

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