(The Root) — There must be something in the water, because major figures in hip-hop are revolutionizing the way we consume media — during Black Music Month, no less.
On the heels of Jay-Z’s partnership with Samsung to release his new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, to 1 million users three days before the actual release date, Revolt TV, the upcoming cable network led by Sean Combs, has finalized a national carriage agreement with Time Warner Cable. Coupled with Combs’ original carriage deal with Comcast, Revolt’s new deal will make it one of the largest launches of a channel focusing on music programming and live content in television history.
“This is a landmark distribution deal that demonstrates Time Warner Cable’s commitment to bringing a platform for music artists and fans to their subscribers,” said Combs in a statement. “It positions Revolt to come out of the gate strong, and we look forward to igniting the passion of initial audiences across the U.S.”
Combs is poised to make a major impact on music programming, since there is definitely a market for what Revolt is offering, particularly with Viacom’s recent 18 percent drop in net earnings. Viacom is home to BET, MTV, VH1 and their sister channels.
This deal makes good sense not only from a distribution standpoint but also from a financial perspective. Comcast’s quarterly net rose 17 percent from a year ago, largely because of some heavy price increases for its cable subscribers. Comcast is the nation’s largest cable company, and in 2011 it acquired NBC Universal. Comcast rival Time Warner’s net jumped 24 percent, which means that Revolt’s deal marries not only two of the largest cable carriers in the country but also two of the most financially robust media companies.
With a fall 2013 launch date, Revolt TV will focus on music programming and live content and include a strong social media component. If the intention is to shake up how music programming happens on television, then it certainly helps to be bolstered by two major cable carriers, helping Comb reach current fans and create new ones.
This business deal is historic for television and for hip-hop culture, which often gets reduced to focusing on performers who celebrate materialism, nihilism and pathology. What is happening in hip-hop culture in terms of experimentation with content — in addition to the ways in which it is being distributed — is game-changing. Revolt TV’s deal has brought together major media rivals (Comcast and Time Warner) in order to bring fresh content and music programming to subscribers, many of whom reside in urban markets. This deal is a major win for hip-hop, reflecting the long history of the creative use of distribution platforms in order to serve the culture, fans and artists while changing the market and the industry simultaneously.
The late rapper and Combs’ protégé Biggie Smalls once rapped, “You never thought that hip-hop would take it this far,” on his hit song “Juicy,” which brilliantly critiques society’s limited vision of black men while celebrating hip-hop culture past and present. This latest deal demonstrates just how far hip-hop culture has come and the fact that we really don’t know how far it will go, which is a good thing.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large at The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.