Soul of the South Network Targeting African-Americans Launches May 27
The new multicast network will offer local programming and targeted news
The combination of private investments and state incentives was orchestrated largely through the combined efforts of lead investors Judge Richard Mays, former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice and history-making civil rights attorney, who will serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors, and Edwin V. Avent, who will serve as Chief Executive Officer of Soul of the South’s General Partner. Christopher Rankin Clark, Esq., formerly of Dewey & LeBoeuf, LLP, structured the deal and will serve as Executive Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs. Angel investor, Mississippi farmer Matthew J. Gruber, will serve as Vice Chairman of the Board.
Says Mays, “It’s exciting to be working with Avent and his team of dedicated professionals to build a network that will glorify the city and region where I was born and raised.” Continuing Mays adds, “We are anxious to provide national television audiences with a platform with which to celebrate and honor the culture of the south, especially African-Americans.”
“Our distribution footprint covers at least 70 percent of all African-American households in the south and in Chicago and Philadelphia, which we call sister regions,” says Doug McHenry, the Hollywood-based producer of films including New Jack City andHouse Party and TV shows including Malcolm & Eddie, who is the new network’s president of entertainment.
By the end of this summer, Soul of the South expects to be in 50-60 markets with a high concentration of African-Americans, reaching 30-40 million households.
The new network, which is based at a TV station the group has purchased in Little Rock, Ark., is expected to create 150 new jobs. That is part of the reason the Arkansas Development Finance Authority has contributed more than $1 million in equity financing and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission has approved a $500,000 renovation grant and more than $1.5 million in tax credits. The Arkansas Capital Corporation, a private nonprofit agency, also kicked in a $1.5 million mortgage (backed by the federal Small Business Administration) being used to purchase the 30,000-square-foot production facility that was formerly part of Equity Broadcasting.
“This is exciting news for Arkansas, as both an economic-development project and as a cultural enterprise,” says Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe. “We are proud to be the point of origin for the signal of Southern culture and diversity that Soul of the South will send into millions of American homes.”
The new network plans to have news bureaus in each of the major Southern capital cities. A sister company is going to manage stations in Tallahassee, Montgomery, Jackson (Mississippi), Atlanta and Raleigh, as well as Chicago and Philadelphia.
News veteran Tom Jacobs and Matthew L. Mixon (who will also manage the station in Little Rock) will head the news operations and are recruiting news staff from around the U.S. Within a year, the network plans six hours of news a day.
Larry Morton, former CEO of Equity Broadcasting, is chief operating officer, and Frank Mercado-Valdes, former CEO of African Heritage Networks, is chief strategic officer. Others on the team include Carl McCaskill, executive vp branding and business development; Maurice James, senior vp network production & development; Sherman Kizart, executive vp corporate advertising sales; former Johnson Publishing executive Jeff Burns, senior vp integrated marketing; Jeffrey Lyle. chief technology officer; Jeff Timpa, vp national programming; and Adrianne Smith, national ad sales. Advertising firms MaxAD Media and Brandworks USA are also involved and TVI Media Sales will handle direct response advertising. Terry Hines & Associates is doing the PR. The distribution technology is being done with Gateway Media Technology.
“We will create a unique distribution platform by combining full-power television stations, Class A low-power TV stations and digital sub channels with cable,” says Morton, adding that the network’s “cloud-based servers … can provide custom feeds and operate up to 100 stations simultaneously from our Little Rock location.”