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Cable Technology Feature Article

February 21, 2012

Magic Johnson Launching Aspire TV Networking Targeting African Americans

By Monica Gleberman, Contributing Writer

It has been 20 years since former Lakers’ star Magic Johnson has hit the court to play pro basketball, and now Johnson, who has become a successful business mogul, has announced a new project: his own television network.

Johnson, who prepares to call the new network “Aspire,” said it would be a 24-hour channel with a focus on positive, uplifting images of African Americans. The basic cable outlet will join other channels targeting black viewers, such as Black Entertainment Television (BET (News - Alert)).

Aspire will include a mix of film, TV, music, and comedy, with a combination of acquired projects and original programming. “African-Americans have choices, and now they have another one,” Johnson told the Wall Street Journal.

The channel will be run under Comcast (News - Alert), who has been making an effort to offer more channels and content to minority-owned networks. Johnson said this is a project that is going to be slowly researched and developed. “We’re not going to spend $200 million on day one. We need to come in and take our time and make sure the programming is relevant and stay within our budget,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s entry into the television arena only enhances an agreement between the FCC (News - Alert) and Department of Justice. The two departments have decided to diversify more of the cable networks and television shows that are currently being offered to subscribers.

Comcast agreed last year to launch 10 new independently owned cable channels, with most backed by African Americans and Latinos by 2018. Johnson’s channel, Aspire, will be the first one launched onto the cable network.

Aspire, which will be launched on June 30, will make Johnson the second major celebrity to independently decide to create his or her own channel. The first, more famous move came from Oprah Winfrey, who after 25 years of running her own day time talk show decided to establish OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. OWN debuted back in January of 2011, but has been struggling to maintain the audience that once followed Winfrey’s every move. 

Johnson said he is aware of the risks of running his own channel. “We’ll learn from those who have gone before us. We understand the landscape and we will run a sound business,” said Johnson.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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