Byron Allen began his career as a standup comic and is now a media tycoon who owns dozens of outlets including the Weather Channel. He has recently added another network to his portfolio — the Black News Channel.
Allen is acquiring the assets of the Black News Channel after a bankruptcy court approved his $11 million purchase. Within 10 minutes of wiring the money, Allen said he changed the name of the station to theGrio — a West African term for a storyteller.
Allen, who owns 36 TV stations and 12 cable networks, wanted the channel to be a lot more inclusive, including its name.
“I never really quite thought it was a good idea, the Black News Channel,” Allen said. “I don’t think we need the Black News Channel. I think we need a good news channel.”
The network has been a small startup that never ranked high in ratings, CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter said on “Reliable Sources” Sunday, but it was “producing some great work.”
Allen said the revived channel will focus on lifestyle, entertainment, news and sports. The channel will work with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to license more than 2,000 of their sporting events that will air on theGrio.
“That’s going to help us to amplify the sporting events,” Allen said. “And to help educate these kids at those schools.”
Allen stressed there isn’t enough diversity of ownership in the media industry — and it isn’t just the Black community that’s underrepresented.
“Women don’t own these networks and they don’t control their image and their likeness and how they’re produced and depicted,” Allen said. “Asian people are pretty much nonexistent in the media landscape in terms of how we’re depicting them or even seeing. A lot of the Spanish language networks are owned by people who don’t even speak Spanish.”
And we can’t ensure a “true democracy” until all of these communities have their voices heard, Allen said.
He added that startups like the Black News Channel need more support from Corporate America. Although major networks often take in more than a billion dollars a year from cable subscription fees, the Black News Channel received zero. Allen also said the channel’s advertising revenue was less than $2 million.
“That means the chairman and CEO of every Fortune 500 company, their personal compensation, was more than all of the advertising on the Black News Channel,” Allen said.