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When Can We Expect Better Black TV?

Aymar Jean Christian April 23, 2010 uncategorized 18 Comments

When will we see Better Black TV?

According to reports, Better Back TV was due first in 2009 (perhaps as far back as 2008) and now spring 2010. Well, there’s only a few more weeks of spring!

The website for the “online network” for the distribution of scripted and reality web series, music videos and news targeted at the black community is getting more developed. We’re beginning to see glimpses of what BBTV might look like. It’s a sleek website, and aside from the TI song playing every time you visit the homepage, it’s clearly well-planned. Master P also seems to have lined up sponsors, including Nike, Healthy Water, Microsoft Xbox, People First and Wylde Water, adding to a strong list of backers, including Denzel Washington and — judging from the photo above — Will Smith.

Percy “Master P” Miller has been planning to start his own network for nearly ten years. And by “network” I mean an actual TV network. Those economics apparently weren’t plausible. He’s taking his time making sure to get it right, though online, nothing is a sure thing. Through this company, Miller is already producing traditional television (No Excuses, with VH1), presumably content he can move online as well. Though, as on television, BET is still the home of black entertainment, and boasts its own growing stable of web series, including Buppies and Shop Talk. Meanwhile, Master P has been touring the South with his “inspirational Hip Hop plays” starring Uncle Willy. The black Southern family comedy play is a tried and true genre, and Master P’s post-Katrina tale seems ideologically in line with BBTV: inspirational, community-oriented, family friendly.

Uncle Willy looks like he’ll be a strong presence on BBTV, for now the site’s only scripted show, Uncle Willy’s Family. The other reality shows revolve around music and news.

Is there really a market for quality family-friendly black entertainment? Really? I don’t know. Tyler Perry makes bank on screens big and small, but Master P seems to be aiming for a younger, hipper crowd. But young adults are a cynical and fickle bunch, even in the Obama era. Shows like “America’s Coolest Dad” and “Sunset & Vine,” a show about “responsible hip hop” are the opposite of edgy (I assume that’s the point). Plans for a dance competition sound like a good idea, but “Teens Real Talk” sounds a little like something church parents come up with to connect with the youth.”The Movie Master List,” a show supporting independent minority filmmakers and original in-house productions, sounds like my cup of tea, but I’m not your average viewer.

In sum, BBTV is trying to accomplish a lot, in a venue that’s already tough on start-ups and not very kind to sites without a very specific, sexy brand and niche. References to “community” and Obama, both of which animate the site’s promo rhetoric, probably won’t have them coming in droves. We are in a new era of black entertainment, but it’s probably a bit more complicated and contingent than the need for clean programming (and, while BET does play some “trashy” reality television and music videos, it’s not exactly a hot ghetto mess).

Master P’s celebrity connections and his private capital, however, make BBTV a contender. He has the pull to deliver a quality site and might have enough to pack the site with enough premium content to get it some attention: aside from viral comedy, nothing sells quite so consistently online as celebrity. Celebrities and music (as in music videos) sell even better. From there, perhaps the social networking aspects might take off, but that’s a rare occurrence — have you been to Quarterlife recently?

Do we need Better Black TV? I have no idea. When can we expect BBTV? Same answer.

 

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

18 Comments

  1. Ann Lisa May 3, 2010 at 4:01 am

    That channel will never come out!

  2. misterxxx May 11, 2010 at 6:59 am

    id like to know about this too…will it ever launch???

  3. Nate May 12, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Good lookin P-Miller I’m hoping for this to come to light its time to see us portayed in our real light as a responsible race. Change is not easy I supported this black man when he was rapping, but now that I’m a grown a** man and my vision on us as a people has changed I am more than willing to support this. Your either part of the problems that we have as a people or part of the solution point blank. Keep on keeping on black man cuz I got yo back.

  4. JM October 31, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    it will never come out.

  5. Greg April 3, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I was just wondering…Did they ever get this thing launched or is it a forgotten project now?

  6. Aymar Jean Christian April 3, 2011 at 11:34 am

    My guess is its probably dead, though I find it hard to believe its backers would put that much effort into making the site only to let it lie fallow. But crazier things have happened.

  7. valerie April 4, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    re: “..a show about “responsible hip hop”..” is there such a thing ? And if who decides what is responsible ? it’s just another vague ‘ political correct ‘ term grounded more in wishful thinking than reality

  8. marta April 6, 2011 at 2:25 am

    I’m all for aspiration but I have hard time believing that you capture better black tv or better any minority group tv on a wholesale channel level. The occasional well written show sure but a whole channel not a chance. I don’t think it will come from big corporate financing either at least not if they have a say in programming format. The best stuff comes from the edge and neither tv as a gross product nor huge finances can capture it. We need to cultivate original voices and the rest will follow.

  9. Semper April 6, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    I was also wondering if it ever came out?

  10. Home Builder Conroe April 11, 2011 at 8:06 am

    I hope this will still come out, and hoping to see Will Smith.

    May I leave a shameless plug?
    Home Builder Conroe

  11. Aromatherapy Guy April 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Will Smith is awesome… a clean comedian. And, black entertainment is obviously a big demographic or he wouldn’t be participating… he’s a pretty smart guy.

    But, what bothers me is that while it segments entertainment perhaps into a more convenient niche, it also enforces the idea of separation, from a racial perspective.

    As a business person, I see the brilliance behind trying to tap the black market for entertainment, but I don’t like the racial separation that it fosters. And, as a white person, I have to ask: Why can’t we just have better entertainment? Why does it have to be better black entertainment?

    Morgan Freeman is my favorite actor… he doesn’t seem to need black entertainment. What we need more of is substance!

  12. Madeline June 30, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Better Black TV is a great idea but to go completely black is a mistake. You must include everyone while still keeping with the concept. I expect to see more black content as it is a black network. You should offer movies like “Nothing to Lose” and “White Men Can’t Jump” etc. Do something like implementing ethnicity month, the celebration of Blacks, Hispanics and Appalachians etc. You must include everyone. If you think about it…what would you do if blacks were the largest group demographically? You would want to be fair and give everyone a platform. Be real, honest, and true to all of your viewers whether black or white.

  13. Goliatharts October 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    What ever happen to the launch? The website is still looking nice – but no news on whether it’s live on TV yet.

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