Friday, September 08, 2006


Issue 35--on Overdrive. Tellin' it like it t-i-s-, tis.


VIACOM SHAKEUP...Of course the big industry news earlier this week was the sudden ouster of Tom Freston, 60, as CEO of Viacom by Viacom chairman/founder Sumner Redstone. He will be replaced by former Viacom exec and board member Philippe Dauman, described as a close Redstone associate. We hear Dauman has assured that the big wigs, including Debra Lee at BET and Christina Norman at MTV, will remain demi-gods over their respective realms. Then again, we understand that just six weeks ago Sumner himself assured Freston that his job was more than secure. It will also be interesting to see what transpires particularly for BET to keep in step with good old Sumner's views since he seems quite adamant that Viacom take more than full advantage of the new media realm and dominate it. Will the last week's news regarding BET Interactive actually translate to innovative and engaging business by the group now in command? We'll, see.

BASSETT, FISHBURNE & BLACK PRESS AD LOCKOUT...No, they aren't doing the Ike & Tina story. But Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne have teamed up again, this time for a limited engagement of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fences. Running until October 1st at the Pasadena Playhouse(, the production also stars Bryan Clark, Kadeem Hardison, Orlando Jones, Wendell Pierce, and Victoria Matthews. It is directed by noted African-American director and the Playhouse's artistic director Sheldon Epps ("Friends," "Fraiser," "Girlfriends"). But while the production is getting rave reviews, members of the West Coast Black Publishers, an organization of about 30 black newspapers in California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon, and the California Black Media organization held a press conference to protest what they say is discriminatory treatment in advertising practices by the Playhouse. At presstime, no followup was available.

UNFORGETTABLE PERFORMANCE...Speaking of stars moving from screen to stage for the moment, Emmy Award-winner Keith David performs “The King and I, A Knight of True Romance” during a week-long musical tribute to Nat King Cole at the Metropolitan Room ( in NYC, through September 10th. David, a longtime song-and-dance man in addition to his film and television work, will perform some of the legendary crooner’s signature classics--from “Mona Lisa” to “Unforgettable.” The tribute was David's own idea: “I decided to honor Nat King Cole with a musical tribute because I always wanted to be in love like that,” says David, who is currently recording his own debut CD blending jazz, poetry, and popular music. We wonder if Mona Lisa is smiling?

WE BEG TO DIFFER...Before the Kate Moss Vanity Fair issue leaves all the newsstands to make way for the one with Suri Cruise's baby pics, we had to make note of the choice in the September issue the mag made when picking Sophia Coppola and crowd as the "cool" kids in the Hollywood metaphor of High School. Sorry Kidz, but Vanity Fair does NOT have the last word as long as The A-List is around. These "cool clicks" rarely seem to involve any people of color. Let's broaden that up a bit. We'll be back with the real story in another issue....

FILMMAKERS ALERT...Current TV has announced the "Seeds of Tolerance Contest." They're looking for 3-15 minute nonfiction videos that explore such questions as: "What
does tolerance (or intolerance) mean to you?" "What are your feelings on racism...Sexism...Agism...Genocide...Homophobia...Religion?" The prize is $100k and the deadline is October 2nd. Additionally, $15k will be donated to a charity that fight the winning filmmaker's chosen cause. Judges include: Ed Norton, M. Night Shyamalan, Paul Haggis, to name a few. The winning videos will screen on World Tolerance Day (Nov 16), with agents and managers in the audience. Check out WWW.CURRENT.TV/tolerance for further info. In these days of less and less tolerance, it's nice to be reminded of this noun's value. Step up and enter.

iTUNES TO OFFER MOVIES?...The industry is abuzz with rumors of Apple Computer
Inc.'s plans to launch a movie download service--especially after the company sent invitations to the media, saying September 12th would be "Showtime." What is already known is that many studios have been in talks to sell their films through iTunes. Apple has already tested the waters as well when it offered a full-length TV movie on iTunes last March of the Disney Channel's original TV movie, High School Musical, for $9.99. So mark your calendars.

NEW PERRY PROJECT...After a slew of shrewd deal making, filmmaker/playwright Tyler Perry is more demand than ever. Now he's signed on to host Film Life's 2006 Black Movie Awards, presented by Turner Network Television (TNT). Perry's own Madea’s Family Reunion is among the top nominees. Also, Cicely Tyson will be honored with the Distinguished Career Achievement award, Laurence Fishburne will receive Honored Excellence in Arts awards, and the movie classic Lady Sings the Blues will be inducted into Film Life’s Classic Cinema Hall of Fame. Suzanne de Passe, CEO of de Passe Entertainment, will executive produce the awards presentation along with Jeff Friday, CEO of Film Life, Inc. The 2006 Black Movie Awards will be taped at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, Oct. 15 and premiere Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 10 p.m. (ET/PT) on TNT.


Crisp Wireless, a provider of mobile content management and delivery solutions, just announced that it is supplying the technology for the first service to make national election results from The Associated Press accessible via mobile phone browsers. The service, called AP Moble Election Results, features Crisp's content management, delivery, and application development platform and it is designed specifically for AP's customer base--newspapers and broadcasters. AP Mobile Election Results is powered by Crisp's mLogic™ Media platform. Crisp and AP Mobile, a unit of the AP, are offering it as a white-label service--a turn-key solution for providers to immediately market and deliver timely election results to their audiences, anywhere and anytime."The mobile device is rapidly becoming the tool for mobilizing social and political audiences, and the delivery of on-demand election information has tremendous political, social, and commercial value to a wide variety of customers," said Boris Fridman, CEO of Crisp Wireless said in a press statement.

The application presents state-by-state results for national office races in 2006 and allows for quick access by users to specific races. The service will be available from September through the week of the general election in November. Crisp Wireless enables the development of revenue-generating mobile portals and downloadable applications for advertising, media, sports, and entertainment clients, including industry-first experiences for music, film, and television clients. The Crisp Wireless mLogic Media product provides seamless content management and delivery capabilities through a visually powerful, intuitive interface.

Two new studies about African Americans online point to different conclusions about the state of blacks in Cyber space. According to the new FOCUS: African-America study by Horowitz Associates (, Internet penetration among urban blacks is estimated to grow from 45% to 62%, And, the study also projects significant growth in high-speed Internet penetration by blacks, from the current 28% to 46%. It seems that African-Americans spend more on their Internet services. According to the study, urban African Americans pay more for cable, digital cable, or satellite service. Urban African Americans, for example, pay $63.70 per month for satellite service, compared with an average of $58.73 for all urban satellite customers. African Americans are more likely to subscribe to premium channels and pay-per-view.

While the above may be true, another report--this one by National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the Education Department--found that more white children use the Internet than do Hispanic and black students. In fact, two of every three white students, or 67%, use the Internet, while fewer than half of blacks (47%) and Hispanics (44%) do. The new data, based on a national survey of households in 2003.

First, Google announced GBuy to compete with PayPal, now Obopay is entering the frey. Obopay, the first comprehensive mobile payment service in the U.S. announced earlier this week that it closed on a $7 million strategic investment round led by leading wireless technologies innovator QUALCOMM Incorporated. Other participants in this round include investors Redpoint Ventures, ONSET Ventures and Richmond Management, which all contributed to the series A round of $10 million last February.

Obopay plans to leverage the investment to expand its marketing and operations to capitalize on the rapidly growing opportunity for mobile payments in the United States. "This strategic investment by QUALCOMM and our original slate of investors strongly validates our early leadership in this rapidly growing market," said Carol L. Realini, CEO and founder of Obopay, in a press statement. With the Obopay mobile payment service, consumers can instantly get, send, and spend money using their mobile handset. Obopay accounts can be managed from the mobile handset, allowing users to check balances, request payments from other mobile users and view their transaction histories.



Okay, so many have been lamenting over the evaporation of urban programming on network television here in the States since the morphing of UPN (affectionately referred to in its early days as “U People’s Network”) into CW. And while this no doubt has a major impact on deals, creative outlets and the like, let alone the societal affects; we had to also ask about the money. Yes, we said money. But as in the “sponsored” by terms. The wonderful advertisers and brands that add that crucial ingredient to the mix of entertainment we call television.

Much speculation is going on now about “the ad dollars, the ad dollars.” Where are they going? Who is getting them? Will advertisers simply brush off the urban market? Has BET been aggressive enough in going after them, given the TV One no-holds-barred approach, and more!

But we decided to ask the horse’s mouth, so to speak, to get a better handle on this interesting new business development. So, let's get to it.

When the merger of UPN and The WB was announced, TV One went right to work seeking those lingering ad dollars--and it has already help boost the network's bottom line. With The CW lineup offering fewer urban-oriented programs, companies seeking to reach that market will be looking elsewhere. "The CW has fewer hours dedicated (vs. UPN) to the African-American audience in the aggregate and throughout the week," says Keith Bowen, TVOne EVP of Advertising Sales and Marketing, "The CW's programming strategy has enabled TV One to substantially grow upfront revenues this year versus last." In terms of cold hard numbers obtained, Bowen did not detail. But it's easy to speculate that there is a good percentage still remaining. And with the decrease of urban broadcast outlets, companies are looking at other ways to reach the urban market.

Editor-in-chief at industry trade heavyweight Brandweek, Karen Benezra, feels that there are certainly new opportunities for brands looking to reach the urban market and are revving up this focus. “Since TV offerings are limited, off-air opportunities like events, local and national film fests, etc. actually have a better chance at grabbing the attention of big brands. Take a look at all the sponsors running around places like Sundance, Tribeca or the MTV VMA awards. They are eager to find talent (including indy producers) who stand out. Some, like AmEx, have even solicited short films via special promotions. Agencies are another route. Ad execs and media planners often review scripts for product placement ideas.”

In accord, to some extent, with Benezra is automotive company, General Motors. Perhaps fresh from its new union with Steve Stoute's Translation marketing firm, GM seems to be working toward a mix of tactics to reach the urban consumer. Ryndee Carney, manager marketing communications for GM, explains, ”We still believe that television is an effective medium to reach the urban consumer audience, as well as other audiences. GM's media strategy is to sponsor premier media properties such as the NCAA Final Four, the MTV Music Awards, the ESPY Awards, the Essence Music Festival and others, and then build them out across different media platforms, such as the Web, radio, out-of-home and, of course, television. In addition to television and other mass media, we use other types of sponsorships and special events to reach the urban audience as well, such as the recent GM All-Car Showdown, an invitation-only event celebrating the hottest modified GM vehicles that took place in Los Angeles prior to the ESPYs."

Likewise, Volkswagen's VWIP (Volkswagen Important People) campaign. They have been hosting parties geared to African Americans, from a block party in support NBA player Alonzo Mourning Charities' Honey Shine Mentoring Program to its recent Idlewild parties. In the midst of partying, guests are invited to check out the latest VW, of course.

The urban market with its consumer spending power of $679 billion, according to, is one that can take a company’s revenues from zero to 60 in seconds. It is to be courted, but organically. Particularly regarding the younger demo, where the focus is on the digital and wireless world. And certain brands are beginning to wise up and finally hop on board this trend. For many developments are on the horizon and television no longer holds the throne any longer.

But clearly events are not the only way too go. The new buzz phrase, of course, is "entertainment branding." “The branded content stuff I'm seeing for the urban market is most closely associated with video games or sports events like the World Cup or the NBA,” explains Brandweek's Benezra. "You have some dedicated marketers in soft drinks and fast food or cell phones that consider this audience as their true sweet spot, so they're always hoping for new and unusual ways to connect. That leads to better, more imaginative creative--and as long as the audience says, 'hey that's cool,' it really doesn't matter where they see it.” Thus branded content just may be a very viable option for the future. In fact, Brandweek will be providing more information as well as networking opportunities at a special upcoming event in Los Angeles in January, ’07 (
). But there are certainly special considerations and savvy needed in order to make such ventures successful when dealing with such a power demo.

So with advertisers looking are alternative routes to reach the urban consumer is broadcast medium a mute marketing tool? No, says Bowen. Advertisers still regard TV as a viable outlet--and TV One is benefiting. "Yes, the loss of UPN programming hours committed to the African-American audience has reduced the supply of available grp's (Gross rating points or the sum total of the ratings achieved for a media schedule), which has tightened the marketplace," he explains. "Niche marketing is a vital...and growing...segment of the general market. More marketers are placing a premium value on networks that can deliver a specific demographic in a highly targeted environment and with very little media waste."

But James Winston, Executive Director and General Counsel for the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, Inc., remains cautious about a possible urban broadcast advertsing boom. "The ad market has gotten tighter. Broadcast advertising, both radio and television, is being impacted by new advertising media, such as the Internet. As advertisers diversify their media usage, it has diverted some money that historically has gone to traditional broadcasting," he explains. "[Yet] because the African-American consumer is a unique target audience, many smart advertisers are spending money directed at African-American consumers. This means ad dollars for some minority owned radio and television stations have increased. However, where advertisers fail to see the desirability of targeting African-American consumers as a unique consumer group, it means African-American-owned media are losing ad dollars."

Thus, from no matter what chair you sit in Hollywood, the game is definitely changing. And only those who are close to the streets, savvy and open will be the winners in the realm of new opportunities.

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Congratulations to The A-List I find your emails to be quite informative!
Jeff Burns, Jr.
Associate Publisher
EBONY Magazine