Through a pair of new partnerships, Comcast Universal will broadly distribute two new independent, Black-owned TV channels to homes around the country.
Under the leadership of Comcast’s executive director of multicultural products, Keesha Boyd, and other executives, the media conglomerate called for proposals for two new multicultural networks to be launched this year. After fielding scores of responses, Comcast selected and greenlit a channel from TV One aimed at Millennial and Gen X Black women. CLEO TV, the brainchild of TV One’s general manager, Michelle Rice, features scripted and unscripted shows on travel, food, personal finance, current events, entertainment and more.
“We really want to tell our stories authentically,” Rice explained, adding that the channel is named for Cleopatra, the Egyptian pharaoh. “While [viewers] have more options now, there are still not enough images. [TV One] is a Black-owned, Black network and all of the images you’ll see are for us, and made by us.”
The partnership between Urban One (TV One’s parent company) and Comcast Universal is the latest development in a decades-long relationship between the two networks to bring more voices of color to the media landscape. In 2011, as part of a deal to acquire NBC Universal, Comcast pledged to bring 10 new independent multicultural networks to its viewers by 2019. With the addition of CLEO TV, the media giant brings its total to 20, four of which are Black-owned.
As media and other industries respond to sustained public pressure for better representation, diversity and inclusion, the executives hope to highlight the importance of both Black ownership and diversity within that representation. With shows such as Cleo Speaks, Lens of Culture, and Everything I Did Wrong in My 20s, CLEO TV viewers will not only see Black faces, but will also lend their viewership to shows written and produced by Black professionals.
Comcast also welcomed AFRO, a 24-hour channel from New York-based network Afrotainment (already available on Apple TV, Verizon FiOS, and other platforms). AFRO brings more than 300 hours of live, original, scripted, and unscripted programming from the African diaspora, ranging from Nollywood movies, Caribbean-led talk shows and African American-led late-night comedies.
CLEO TV and AFRO are currently available to Select package Xfinity customers. CLEO TV will continue rolling out its full slate of original and acquired shows and movies over the spring season.
“Black Americans are not monolithic; women are not monolithic. Our stories are not the same, and there are still a number of stories that have not been told,” Rice said of her network. “So reach out to us and tell us what you think about it, and share your stories.”
— Jazelle Hunt