Soul of the South Network Targeting African-Americans Launches May 27
The new network, which is based at a TV station the group has purchased in Little Rock, Ark., is expected to create 150 new jobs. That is part of the reason the Arkansas Development Finance Authority has contributed more than $1 million in equity financing and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission has approved a $500,000 renovation grant and more than $1.5 million in tax credits. The Arkansas Capital Corporation, a private nonprofit agency, also kicked in a $1.5 million mortgage (backed by the federal Small Business Administration) being used to purchase the 30,000-square-foot production facility that was formerly part of Equity Broadcasting.
“This is exciting news for Arkansas, as both an economic-development project and as a cultural enterprise,” says Arkansas Governor Michael Beebe. “We are proud to be the point of origin for the signal of Southern culture and diversity that Soul of the South will send into millions of American homes.”
The new network plans to have news bureaus in each of the major Southern capital cities. A sister company is going to manage stations in Tallahassee, Montgomery, Jackson (Mississippi), Atlanta and Raleigh, as well as Chicago and Philadelphia.
News veteran Tom Jacobs and Matthew L. Mixon (who will also manage the station in Little Rock) will head the news operations and are recruiting news staff from around the U.S. Within a year, the network plans six hours of news a day.
Larry Morton, former CEO of Equity Broadcasting, is chief operating officer, and Frank Mercado-Valdes, former CEO of African Heritage Networks, is chief strategic officer. Others on the team include Carl McCaskill, executive vp branding and business development; Maurice James, senior vp network production; Sherman Kizart, executive vp corporate advertising sales; former Johnson Publishing executive Jeff Burns, senior vp integrated marketing; former BET executive Curtis Symonds, executive vp sports and cable distribution; Jeffrey Lyle. chief technology officer; Jeff Timpa, vp national programming; and Adrianne Smith, national ad sales. Advertising firms MaxAD Media and Brandworks USA are also involved and TVI Media Sales will handle direct response advertising. Terry Hines & Associates is doing the PR. The distribution technology is being done with Gateway Media Technology.
“We will create a unique distribution platform by combining full-power television stations, Class A low-power TV stations and digital sub channels with cable,” says Morton, adding that the network's “cloud-based servers … can provide custom feeds and operate up to 100 stations simultaneously from our Little Rock location.”