(Photo: Victor Spinelli/WireImage)
The fledgling HBCU Network and members of the Congressional Black Caucus will meet in Washington later this month to generate interest in what will be the first television network dedicated solely to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The brainchild of HBCU alum and former BET executive Curtis Symonds, the Atlanta-based HBCU Network will be a “full-fledged 24/7, 365 days a year sports, edutainment and lifestyle network.”
“The time has more than come for something like this,” said Symonds. “Right now, Hampton has the largest NASA program in the country, and North Carolina A&T has one of the best engineering departments in the country. How many of our children know things like that? That’s what this channel will be all about — putting all our varying shades on display, while casting us in our best lights.”
Although his vision is lofty, Symonds is no novice. While at BET, he spearheaded the campaign that helped increase BET’s home subscriber base from 18 million to 65 million homes. Now, with Congressional Black Congress members in tow, Symonds is trying to make his dream network a reality. A soft-launch of the network and a grassroots HBCU promotion tour are planned for the fall, but the greatest challenge for the network still lies ahead as Symonds tries to wrangle cable giant Comcast to sign on as a carrier.
“Here, you have entertainment channels like TV One and Centric already struggling for survival,” he added, "and you want to add another one at the expense of not only a historical, potentially industry-changing vehicle, but one that also hits upon all the key criteria and demographics that all execs typically salivate over? I mean, what’s the justification or even logic for this?”
But the network won’t just be all about private profits. Symonds pledged that network plans to give back to the HBCUs by offering a collective 20-percent equity share in the company.