A new Tallahassee-based cable news network is scheduled to launch November 15, and among its financial backers is Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.
As the name implies, the Black News Channel will be aimed at serving an African American audience.
“The number of cable news networks dedicated to serving the nation’s African American communities remains at ZERO! Black News Channel will be the nation’s first channel to fill this significant void,” according to the channel’s website.
BNC’s founder is J.C. Watts, Jr., a former congressman from Oklahoma who played in the Canadian Football League.
Co-founder Bob Brillante has an extensive resume in Florida television, including helping shepherd the launch of the Sunshine Network, which has since morphed into Fox Sports Sun. He also launched the now-defunct Florida’s News Channel, which was a 24-hour regional cable news network
Khan says he’s deeply committed to the Black News Channel’s mission to give voices to the varied experiences, issues, points of view and priorities that matter to African Americans.
“This is a chance for me to make an impact on how African Americans report and consume news and related programming, how their voices are amplified and heard, and how all of us can better connect socially, culturally, economically and more. I am truly proud to be part of such an ambitious but worthy effort,” Khan said in a news release.
Watts said he's thrilled that Khan has decided to join BNC on its journey.
“Obviously, he's a successful business person, not just in the Jacksonville area with the Jaguars and the things that he has going on there, but I think nationally and internationally. He's got a brand that we're excited and thrilled that he chose to join his brand to our efforts,” said Watts.
The cable channel will initially be available to an estimated 33 million households with agreements to reach 23 million satellite TV households and 10 million cable TV households.
Watts told WJCT News on Friday that distribution agreements are still being finalized in regards to Jacksonville. But he did confirm BNC will be available to stream on devices and smart TVs via Sling and on satellite television through Dish Network. He expects to firm up additional distribution agreements in the next 10 days.
“Our intention is to be ubiquitous and to be everywhere that people are and be on those platforms, where they're getting their news,” said Watts. The news operation is starting with about 55 to 60 fulltime employees.
The channel is also doing outreach work with historically black colleges and universities to develop a network of subject experts, he said. Another goal is to recruit and train aspiring African American journalists.
BNC chose to locate its headquarters in Tallahassee for a variety of reasons, he said, including establishing a professional relationship with Ann Kimbrough in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University.
At one point, BNC was in talks to base its operations on the FAMU campus, which is among the nation's largest historically black universities. A location separate from the university was ultimately chosen.
BNC plans to launch with news bureaus in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Chicago and New Orleans.
The fledgling network plans to start with more than 12 hours of original programming each weekday and produce more than five hours of original programming on the weekends.
The original programming will cover international, national, state, and local news that affects black communities across America, according to BNC.
The production studios are being equipped with 4K Ultra HD cameras and what the network is billing as "the world's most advanced virtual reality television simulation technology."
“I believe there is an undeniable calling for everything the Black News Channel will deliver to African American television audiences, who have historically been underserved, in an era where networks have otherwise successfully targeted news to specific demographic groups and interests,” Khan said, adding, “My decision to invest is an easy one, because we get to answer that calling.”