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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why the Announcement of the Urban Movie Channel Gives Me Pause



A press release issued today announced that BET (Black Entertainment Television) founder Robert Johnson's RLJ Entertainment will launch UMC (Urban Movie Channel), a subscription digital streaming channel that will focus on "urban-themed movies" that will include documentaries like Dark Girls, comedies, horror, and stage plays. According to the release, the content will primarily consist of independent cinema such as All Things Fall Apart starring 50 Cent, live stand-up performances featuring big name talent like Kevin Hart and genre films featuring talent of color less likely to be featured on other channels.

Though I'm always glad to see more diversity on both the big and small screens, I have to admit the announcement gave me pause when I read it because I think that anything related, spun off from, or at all connected to BET automatically gets a side eye (even though Johnson hasn't been affiliated with the channel for years, it was at one point his brainchild). I love what BET was supposed to represent, but I hate that it doesn't actually own up to its refusal to show diversity within black entertainment. Is UMC supposed to be the answer to that? Apparently, but it just sounds more like a band-aid to cover up what BET should have been doing all along - providing quality entertainment that expands from the stereotypes we see on other channels. Basically, how Centric and TVOne have been succeeding. 

Another thing that is more of a personal grievance for me is that customers will have to pay yet another bill just to watch the content on UMC. As if we don't have enough to pay with our escalating cable bills? While UMC's strictly digital service will launch with a free trial period through February 4th of next year, there is a "suggested" retail price of $4.99/month or $49.99/year thereafter (but with special limited time introductory pricing of $2.99/month or $29.99/year to start). All of this just sounds like a lot to me, but maybe I'm the only one who doesn't feel like having to pay for something else. Especially since there's so much free quality content already online.

Anyway, I write this all to say that at this point I can only be cautiously optimistic about this news. I'm curious about the viewer reaction, and ultimately what kinds of images we will see on the channel. Can it work? I think so, especially in this Shonda Rhimes world we live in. Clearly audiences crave diversity, and maybe this channel is the answer. But then again, maybe audiences will bypass this in favor of another episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta. Who knows?

What are your thoughts on UMC?

4 comments:

Ashlee Blackwell said...
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Anonymous said...
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Wendell Ottley said...

I agree with you. What BET is supposed to represent and what it actually is are two entirely different things. Anything they do is met with groans from me until they prove me wrong. To be honest, I hope I'm wrong in my thinking that this will feature the same crap BET already shows over and over. We'll see.

Dankwa Brooks said...

I guess I read through the initial announcement for I didn't quite realize that this was a PAY service. Pay for crappy black movies? No Bueno!

I get the appeal of the BOUNCE network. Some movies may be crappy, but people watch and it's FREE! One of the only black free broadcast channels if I'm not mistaken.

Like you Candice, I'm not a big fan of BET and like a comedian back in the day said "Do black people watch BET?" I had to laugh at that because I did not and it was the ONLY game in town back then.

I generally don't like those 50 Cent type direct to DVD black movies, but they DO have an audience and if they think they can make a profit I wish them well.

I suspect it'll be free in about a year through a "format restructuring"...

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