Urban venture tries a different approach


BET founder Bob Johnson is taking another crack at launching a channel for urban audiences, but the business model he has in mind is based more on the Internet than TV.

Johnson is calling on ideas for programs for his venture. It would not license or acquire the programs — instead, it would form partnerships with producers who could buy blocks of airtime and sell their own advertising for a revenue split.

"The intent is to do something really innovative and not duplicate what I did at BET or even the traditional broadcast model," Johnson said. "I don't know if it will work, but I'm willing to give it a try."

Last week, Johnson said that he is teaming with ION Media Networks in hopes of launching Urban Television, a network that could reside on ION's 42 channels. The joint venture has filed an application with the FCC for approval of a share-time license to make the network a reality.

Johnson envisions Urban Television serving black, Hispanic, gay and other minority communities with a range of programming including health care.

Johnson also is looking at turning the venture into a cross-platform play that potentially would stretch to the Internet, where his firm RLJ Cos. is now developing a Web site, dubbed Point of U, that would have a similar programming focus. (partialdiff)