The new Atlanta-based TV network Bounce, targeting African-Americans and set to launch this fall, is taking advantage of the digital spectrum broadcast networks have been using since 2009.
The company is majority owned and operated by African-Americans, with Martin Luther King III and former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young part of the initial ownership team. Bounce will most directly compete against Lanham, Md.-based Radio One, which operates TV One; and New York-based Viacom, which owns BET and Centric.
Bounce has no distribution agreements yet. Executives will spend the next few months getting digital space from TV station groups across the country, preferably in markets with sizable black populations including Chicago, New York and Atlanta.
Getting coverage in enough markets to draw national advertisers will take time, said Chuck Larsen, president of Pacific Palisades, Calif.-based October Moon Television, a consulting firm for producers of TV series to help them with distribution.
"It sounds challenging, but it's not impossible," Larsen said.
Bounce at first will focus on old movies, including Spike Lee classics such as "Do the Right Thing" and "Mo' Better Blues," Will Smith's "Ali," John Singleton's "Boyz ‘n the Hood" and Denzel Washington vehicles "Glory," "Philadelphia" and "The Hurricane."
The network will air sports events through Urban Sports Entertainment Group for football and basketball games from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Bounce's founders also include former Turner Broadcasting executives Ryan Glover and Jonathan Katz and creators of Rainforest Films ("Stomp the Yard," "Takers") Rob Hardy and Will Packer. The network will use the production and operational resources of Atlanta-based CSE, a sports, entertainment and TV production agency.
Financial terms were not released.
Before 2009, broadcast networks used analog signals and could air only one channel at a time. The new digital spectrum allows old-school broadcast networks to air multiple subchannels.
About a dozen specialized networks are using this non-cable digital tier. Channel 2 WSB-TV airs the Retro TV Network on one of its subchannels, showing old shows such as "Adam-12″ and "Marcus Welby M.D." Disney-ABC owns Live Well, which airs home, health and lifestyle shows.
These channels can be seen for free without cable or satellite in particular markets, like traditional broadcast networks. Bounce will join that group. “I am proud that our network will deliver free programming exclusively for our underserved community and be accessible to all homes around the country and not just those who pay for television," Young said in a press release.
Cable and satellite subscribers, who represent nearly 90 percent of U.S. households, will be able to get Bounce only if the respective broadcast network can negotiate a deal.
"This is still in its infancy," said Bill Carroll, director of programming at Katz Television Group, a media representation company out of New York. "The viability is whether they can get on cable or satellite. That's the only way they can get any real traction."
So far, Carroll thinks the initial slate of Bounce films will draw viewer sampling, but "what they'll be able to do in terms of what they produce themselves will be the ultimate long-term test."
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