Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson is trying to do something drastically different with his new Urban Television cable network – as the business model he has in mind is based more on the Internet than on television.
“The intent is to do something really innovative and not duplicate what I did at BET or even the traditional broadcast model,” Johnson told the Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t know if it will work, but I’m willing to give it a try.
Johnson’s idea is that his new venture would not license or acquire programs but would form partnerships with producers, who could buy blocks of airtime and sell their own advertising for a revenue split, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
As previously reported, Johnson has teamed with broadcasting company ION Media Networks in hopes of launching Urban Television on ION’s 42 channels. The joint venture has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for approval of a share-time license to make the network a reality.
Johnson envisions Urban Television serving black, Hispanic, gay and other minority communities with a range of public-interest programming including some focused on health care, a topic of personal interest.
Johnson is also eyeing cross-platform possibilities for the venture, which potentially could stretch to the Internet, where his firm RLJ Companies is developing a Web site, dubbed Point of U, that would have a similar programming focus.
“I like the idea of companioning a broadcast concept with an interactive platform,” he said. “Why do we always have to go back to that old model that says this is how television has to be?”