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Bounce: new TV network for African-Americans

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Bounce president Ryan Glover
  • Bounce president Ryan Glover

At noon Monday, Bounce — which bills itself as the first over-the-air network to serve a predominantly African-American audience — signs on in Indianapolis and in about 60 million homes nationwide. Its first offering: the movie “The Wiz.”

Bounce could be part of the next wave of TV, since it will be seen on digital channels around the country. (That’s unlike BET, TV One and Centric, the cable channels that cater to the African-American audience.) Here, you’ll find Bounce on WNDY 23.3.

Or Bounce could end up being a footnote, since getting the channel will require a digital TV, an analog TV with a digital converter or a TV with an A/B switch. So someone with cable might never know Bounce exists.

“There’s a real move to look at the digital spectrum of the local stations like basic cable was 20 years ago,” said Jim Weiss, chief communications officer for the Atlanta-based network. “There’s all this unused space and now they need to fill it because the FCC is looking at how they’re filling it. There are probably more networks coming that will use that space. Plus, you have rabbit ears, over-the-air usage going up. The economy goes down, people disconnect cable. And it’s beachfront property. You’re in the local broadcast zone.”

I talked to Bounce president Ryan Glover last week about how one starts a network and what he plans to put on the air. Here’s the conversation.

NUVO: How did you do this?

Glover: A lot of prayers, some luck, and I surrounded myself with very smart individuals. The reason why we did it was to provide a solution for two different problems. One, it fills the void for an over-the-air, 24/7 television network exclusively for African-Americans. And two, it fills the void for digital programming for local broadcasters. And three, I wanted to figure out some business that would make my mother proud of me. This happens to be it.

NUVO: What kind of a process was it? How long did it take, and what did you have to do?

Glover: Pre-Bounce, I was an executive at Turner Broadcasting, where I created programming — mainly unscripted — for the networks. TBS, TNT, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, yada, yada, yada. There, I was targeting the African-American sector in the programming I created. There, I started to realize that there was an underserved audience in the country that was starved for good African-American programming. That’s how the thought started. Then it rolled into: Instead of just creating programming, how about creating a network targeted to the broadcast consumer? Technically, we started this quest over a year ago. I would say April 2010.

NUVO: You’ve designed this channel specifically for digital TV. That you’re on 23.3 here doesn’t bother you, right?

Glover: Not at all. Our quest is to serve the underserved from a free standpoint. The local broadcast stations now have new and unused bandwidth that they need to fill. They have strong needs for programming for their digital signals. That’s the gist of the direction we’re moving in.

NUVO: If you have cable, how do you get this channel?

Glover: A lot of our affiliates, through their retransmission agreements, also have cable coverage. I don’t know the exact channel position in Indianapolis, but if I was a betting man — which I am — I would bet to tell you that we do also have cable coverage in that market. (NOTE: Mr. Glover loses this particular bet. Bounce will only be available over the air in Indianapolis.)

NUVO: “The Wiz” is the first thing you’re showing. Do you have plans for original programming?

Glover: Yes, we do. The foundation for how we’re building our network is theatrically based. The foundation will be theatricals — everything from “The Wiz” to “Glory.” We will also air HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) sports, we have a deal with the CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) for basketball and for football. We’ll televise roughly 12 games this year in hopes of broadening that horizon.

I’m in conversations with the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) and the SIAC (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) for 2012. We have some inspirational programs and we have some series that will run. “Soul Train” is one of them. We’re taking 100 out-of-the-vault episodes that were shown when they were created but have not been televised since. We also have “Judge Hatchett” as a series. In 2012, we will start growing and broadening our originals portfolio behind the strategic guidance of a gentleman named Rob Hardy, who is a founder of Rainforest Films.

NUVO: What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Glover: Every day, there seems to be a new challenge. Any time you want to create something new, there are hurdles. I wouldn’t say there’s one specific hurdle, but there’s been everything from raising funds — which we did, obviously — to fund the network, to acquiring the right kind of theatricals from the major studios, who we didn’t have a company track record with. We understand that “The Wiz” or “Glory” might resonate with our community, but also titles like “Scarface,” which resonates with us as well. Getting the major studios to believe that, “Hey, we should make a deal with Bounce for theatricals that aren’t just African American-based.” We’ve come a long way. But just because we’ve met the launch date (for the network) doesn’t mean the struggle will stop.

NUVO: Would somebody look at Bounce as a slap at BET?

Glover: I get that question all the time. No, it’s not a slap at BET, TV One, Centric. The African-American audience is so grossly underserved. We are the fourth offering to service that community, but I would not be surprised if other cable and broadcast networks happen to pop up in the near future. There are nearly 13 million Hispanic households serviced by dozens of Spanish and Spanish-language versions of the networks. Yet there are more than 14 million of us — African-America households — that have a few dedicated channels. And no over-the-air networks. The numbers are facts.

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