Posted: Mon., Jan. 13, 2003, 7:56pm PT
Two pact to form BET rival
By Justin Oppelaar
NEW YORK -- Investors cheered loudly as Radio One made a grab for the big leagues Monday, unveiling a partnership with cable giant Comcast for a new African-American-themed cable net to compete with entrenched rival Black Entertainment Television.
For Radio One, which over the past decade has built itself into the leader in radio broadcasting geared to black auds, deal marks culmination of long-held plans to leverage its talent and marketing muscle with the African-American community into multiple formats.
And media watchers think Monday's agreement with Comcast -- which as the nation's largest cabler boasts nearly 22 million subscribers -- was a big step in the right direction.
Wall Street echoed those sentiments in its own language: Shares of Radio One surged nearly 5% to $15.82 in Monday's trading. The much bigger Comcast edged 0.3% higher to end the day's trading at $26.50.
Radio One chief exec Alfred Liggins said the move into cable television had been on his mind almost from the get-go as he built the company from scratch into a 66-station network.
The partners plan to launch a service targeted primarily at the 25-and-older market, with less music-related programming than the younger-skewing BET. They also expect to have at least some news component to the network -- an area BET has eschewed lately in favor of entertainment fare.
But even without major differentiation between the two rivals, Liggins noted, "The market can certainly sustain more than one successful service" aimed at black viewers.
Liggins plans to leverage his web of radio stations, which includes such heavy hitters as L.A.'s KKBT-FM and WKYS Washington, D.C., to promote programming on the cable net and vice versa. Radio One is also likely to migrate some of its most prominent radio personalities to the tube.
Radio One and Comcast plan to invest up to $70 million in the new cable net. The partners also will be taking on additional nonstrategic investors to help cover running costs, Liggins said.