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.
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.