Quiet as it’s kept, a new television network for African Americans viewers made its premiere last week.
Bounce TV is now on the air 24/7 carried by local TV station digital signals in several cities. The initial slate of programming includes theatrical movie reruns, “inspirational” programming, HBCU sports and television shows like ‘Judge Hatchett.’
Pretty much the usual viewing line-up.
But the emergence of the network, which counts Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III among its founders, has raised eyebrows for an initial lack of public affairs content in its programming.
The concerns come as many have emphasized the need for ‘more-brains-and-less-booty-shaking’ in the slate of programming provided by television networks for African Americans.
BET, for example, appears to have made an attempt at ratcheting up its public affairs content, fighting off the perception that its hallow and claiming to take part in the fight against Black stereotypes.
However, Ryan Glover, President of Bounce TV, told Politic365.com in a phone interview that recent discussions with Young have included plans for expanded public affairs content. Although plans have not been “… fully developed, public affairs will be a part of Bounce TV’s future content,” says Glover.
Kennethe Vaughn, who has served as a Director of Staffing and Diversity at Emmis Communications, told Politic365.com by phone that public affairs programming is something the new network should seriously consider.
“I think that as time goes on this is something that they should probably look at. If we start looking at this network and the audience gets bigger, it’s another means for us to get fair representation or hear different opinions,” argues Vaughn. “So, I think it’s something that they really should look at strongly down the road if not right away. There are different viewpoints, everybody has a different angle and I think in the next two years, especially with the economy the way it is, we need every avenue to get the thoughts out and connect with folks.”
In the face of competitors like BET and TVOne, many wonder if Bounce is old wine in a new bottle. What will make it different from the rest?
Dr. Letitia Wright, D.C., host and producer of The Wright Place TV show told Politic365.com that Bounce TV’s largest challenge is “to stand out.”
“They have to be very strong and clear about who their target audience is. I look at it and I don’t see who they are targeting,” said Dr. Wright. “When BET came out, BET could afford to target the entire Black community because we didn’t have anything else. When TVOne came out they’re like ‘we want to be more mature, we’re for the people that don’t want to see any booty shaking, who don’t want to see rap videos all day, so we’re more of a mature, grown up, wholesome audience.’”
“I think if they picked a niche and went for it they would be quite successful,” added Wright.
Glover explains that the network’s core demographic is 25 to 54 year olds. He believes Bounce will ultimately be able to distinguish itself, fending off suggestions that it’s just another BET clone.
“Our tagline is ‘TV Our Way’ … the tagline kind of expresses our point of view for Bounce in a couple of ways — from how we stylize graphic packages, to the color palettes we select on our air,” said Glover, adding that he believes the programming that the network offers “will resonate with our core demo, 25 – 54 year old African American,” and “in time will distinguish us from the pack.”
The problem, however, is how much of “Our Way” can it be if most of the initial programming is mainly recapped hit movies with a Black slant. In the meantime, Bounce TV says it plans to roll out original programming in 2012, expanding into more cities in a gradual strategy.