Bounce TV: More of the Same
With TV One and BET doing the same thing -- and more -- who will watch the new black channel?
What About the Competition?
Starz in Black, for example, available through satellite or cable TV, is a premium channel owned by the Starz Entertainment Group that targets a black audience with black movies. These, too, are necessarily reruns. The channel also offers film reviews.
It is worth noting that in the channel's original incarnation, Starz partnered with BET and called it BET Movie Starz. BET founder Robert Johnson, who at first thought he could make money with original and educational programming, concluded that he could not and sold BET to Viacom. In terms of movies, there does not seem to be a great difference between Starz in Black and Bounce, except that Bounce is free.
As for BET, it is arguably more mature than Starz and certainly more mature than the brand-new Bounce. Despite its reputation for offensive hip-hop music videos, its programming these days offers reruns like Everybody Hates Chris, Girlfriends and The Bernie Mac Show and some original programming such as reality show Toya: a Family Affair, which chronicles the life of rapper Lil Wayne's ex-wife. BET also produces some live shows, including the wildly popular annual BET Awards, and offers some news, of course.
TV One was established in direct reaction to what were considered the negative stereotypes of black people on BET. Like its predecessor, TV One has ramped up the original programming recently, with series such as Unsung, which highlights entertainers who haven't received a lot of recognition. It also offers old black series, some of which really are "classics." Among them: Living Single, A Different World, The Jeffersons and Good Times.
The Outposts of Originality
Of all the black channels available, the Africa Channel is the most interesting because what it offers is unavailable anywhere else: a wide variety of music and concerts from Africa and, on Thursdays and Saturdays, a solid hour of news and information from the continent. It also produces South Africa's most popular talk show: Conversations With Felicia, hosted by Felicia Mabuza-Suttle.
Aside from the fact that it is free, what does the rerun-oriented Bounce offer that this array does not?
There is one arena that none of these black channels has entered. The era we are in now has seen a tremendous burst of young black creativity in digital and film media. MyCulture.tv, blip.tv and Vimeo are among many mainstream, Web-based video-sharing sources for films made by young people -- some quite good. In addition, a significant and easy-to-reach source for creative filmmaking from African Americans is the National Black Programming Consortium.
I long ago left the 25- to 54-year-old age cohort, so when I say that Bounce TV's biggest flaw is how uninteresting it is, that may mean nothing in the advertising-numbers game that defines television in the U.S. Yet despite my disappointment in what I have seen so far, I hope the network will last long enough for me to come back to it in a year or so to see if it has made its way to a more original and creative television landscape.
Charles E. Cobb Jr., a journalist, is author of On the Road to Freedom: a Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail.