Rapper and producer Sean "Diddy" Combs and NBA star Magic Johnson and are launching their own television networks.
Comcast, the biggest cable provider in the United States, said in a statement on Tuesday, February 21, that it will begin distributing the channels, which are part of its four new "independent minority-owned networks," starting this year.
Johnson's channel is called Aspire and will "celebrate the successes, achievements and accomplishments of the African American Community with programming including movies, documentaries, short films, music and comedies," the statement said.
Diddy's channel is called REVOLT and it was co-created by music mogul Andy Schuon. The channel's programming "will be inspired by music and pop culture with social media interaction for music artists and fans," Comcast said, adding that it will launch in 2013. Diddy is known mostly for his hip hop music but has also produced on-screen projects such as the MTV reality show "Making The Band."
"I grew up watching BET and MTV and HBO and NBC and I had a dream," Diddy said in a message posted on his YouTube page on Tuesday. "I had a dream that one day, I would have a chance, an opportunity, to show my perspective, coming from a musical standpoint. I take a lot of pride in having experience, credibility, the authenticity and the relationships to make REVOLT TV the number one name and home for music on television."
"FYI #Revolt is NOT a 'BLACK NETWORK!'" Diddy also Tweeted on Tuesday. "I just happen to be Black-Lol. This network is for all colors-all races...TechniColor :)"
Johnson, 52, retired from professional basketball in 1996, some five years after announcing that he was HIV positive.
He told the Los Angeles Times that his new channel will feature "some performing arts and shows about faith." The newspaper said Johnson "may pop up on Aspire from time to time" but that he does not plan on choosing which shows will air on Aspire.
Johnson has in recent years concentrated on managing his multi-million dollar companies and charity, the Magic Johnson Foundation. The firm Magic Johnson Enterprises has an interest in Inner City Broadcasting, a group of 17 radio stations that includes WBLS, the largest urban station in New York, the Los Angeles Times said. Aspire will launch on June 30, it added.
Johnson has produced several on-screen projects, such as the 2009 movie "Obsessed" with Beyonce and Ali Larter. He hosted his own talk show called "The Magic Hour," which was canceled after several weeks in 1998.
'I HAD A DREAM'
The news comes a week before Comcast is set issue its first annual report to the FCC on its acquisition of NBC Universal. The move had been under federal review for a year and Comcast executives had during the time promised to carry several new channels owned by minorities.
"Comcast made a series of voluntary public interest commitments in connection with the deal, including launching 10 new independently owned and operated networks over the next eight years," Comcast said in its statement.
"Of the 10 networks, four will be majority African-American owned, two will be majority American Latino owned, two will be operated by American Latino programmers, and two will provide additional independent programming," it said."Ultimately, each of the 10 networks will be added on certain Comcast systems as part of the digital basic tier of service."
"When I was growing up .. I used to wonder why don't those people look like me or talk like me or walk like me?" Diddy said. "So thank you to Comcast. My hat goes off to you for being the first to step up."
Diddy said his new network was for "the artists," adding: "This is your channel, baby. It's your channel to do what you want to do, how you want to do it. It's your channel, your opportunity, to show your art the way you want to show your art - uncut, raw, uncensored, not destined by the charts and who's pop. A channel that will give new artists and opportunity to get seen and get heard."
The other two networks picked up by Comcast are El Rey, and "action-packed general entertainment network for Latino and general audiences," which was proposed by Robert Rodriguez with John Fogelman and Cristina Patway from FactoryMade Ventures, and BabyFirst Americas.
The latter channel is set to launch in April and is geared toward "infants and young children and their parents with a focus on early development," Comcast said.
Last year, Oprah Winfrey launched her own cable network, OWN, after ending her hit syndicated talk show "The Oprah Winfrey Show" after 25 years. OWN has struggled in the ratings, although it has seen a rise since the premiere of her series "Oprah's Next Chapter" in January.
Winfrey came under criticism recently for posted a message on her Twitter page that called for people who participate in Nielsen's television ratings surveys to watch her channel. She later deleted her Tweet at the company's request and said she apologized for the reference.