Bob Johnson Thinks BET Experience Will Help New Streaming Service, Urban Movie Channel

[Y]ouTube, Netflix and Hulu may want to consider their marketing strategy for African-Americans, now that BET founder Bob Johnson is entering into the digital streaming business.
The former founder of BET is banking on his knowledge of the African-American consumer with the launch of the Urban Music Channel (UMC), a premium subscription-based streaming service produced by his company, RLJ Entertainment.
UMC will launch with titles that were previous released under the One Village Brand, another company owned by RLJE. UMC is attempting to attract new consumers by offering a free trial, through February 4, 2015. Afterwards, prices will be $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year.
“As more video is consumed over broadband, we believe that we can quickly become the preeminent provider of quality urban entertainment to what has largely been an underserved, yet highly engaged audience,” Bob Johnson said.
“I am convinced that urban consumers will gravitate to the economic and entertainment value proposition of UMC and that the creative community will embrace UMC as the best way to reach their loyal fans and benefit financially from showcasing their outstanding work product,” Johnson predicted.
In 1980, Bob Johnson revolutionized the emerging cable industry with the launch of BET Networks, backed with just $15,000 in capital and later, a $500,000 loan from investor John Malone.
After 21-years at the helm, Bob Johnson sold his stake in BET to Viacom for $2.3 billion dollars, making him the first black billionaire in the United States.

Urban Movie Channel

Can Bob Johnson do it again with the Urban Movie Channel?

For UMC, Bob Johnson seems to be following a similar business approach, one that he took when founding BET. The mogul started the company due to the lack of quality programming targeted specifically to African-American viewers in the early days of cable television.
BET originally launched with a format that consisted of mostly music videos, since MTV didn’t play black artists at the time. The network began acquiring content and producing original shows, in order to round out its content offerings and to satisfy the marketplace.
According to The Billion Dollar BET: Robert Johnson and the Inside Story of Black Entertainment Television, in the early days, the company acquired the rights to broadcast content like “Stormy Weather” and “Lady Sings The Blues.” Johnson is hoping a similar strategy will work with UMC, with titles from funnymen like Charlie Murphy, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Hart, as well as 50 Cent’s feature film “All Things Fall Apart.” The channel will feature deeper programming, including stage plays, documentaries, music and other forms of entertainment targeting the African-American and urban audience, Bob Johnson explained.
In addition to the acquired content, UMC is also ramping up for a major promotion to get the word out. UMC is preparing for a major launch over the next 12 months, which is being spearheaded by Traci Otey Blunt. She has worked as Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at The RLJ Companies.
Blunt, who was national deputy communications director and director of African-American media for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2008, will oversee the marketing, public relations, investor relations, and promotion of UMC.
Miguel Penella, CEO of RLJE, has tasked Blunt with promoting the channel, which he says will “deliver to the urban audience an unprecedented library of high-quality video content.”
“She will promote the channel and grow its subscriber base by building new and cultivating existing relationships which will ultimately have a strong impact on RLJE’s digital platforms,” Penella said.
To give Bob Johnson’s new streaming video service a test run for free, visit