A former NBCUniversal executive has revealed that after a deal by Comcast and civil rights groups to launch minority-owned television networks was struck, the cable giant never gave these channels a real chance to succeed.
Before the 2011 merger with NBCUniversal, Comcast entered an agreement with the NAACP, National Urban League, and National Action Network to launch minority-owned television networks. The agreement with these groups was important in getting the government-run Federal Communications Commission’s support of the merger.
And now Paula Madison, a former executive vice president and chief diversity officer at NBCUniversal is revealing that the agreement did not guarantee the channels a minimum number of subscribers, or fees per subscriber, to help the new networks succeed. Madison is now an owner of The Africa Channel (TAC) after leaving NBCUniversal after the merger.
“Comcast was bound by the agreement to launch the cable networks but was not bound to distribute to a requisite number of households/subscribers so the channels never had a good chance of having a profitable and successful business,” Madison said.
Madison added that she raised these concerns with Comcast and “Comcast made it clear that it was only committed to launching these networks, and not giving them the necessary distribution and economic support to succeed,” she said.
And although The Africa Channel is distributed by Comcast, Madison also accused the cable giant of being a bad business partner.
“Although Comcast has not shut out TAC, Comcast has not been a good business partner. With an unkept — yet repeated — promise by Comcast of 4 million additional subscribers it’s inaccurate to include TAC in any grouping of Black-owned independent networks which would typify the Comcast business relationship as good or in any way proactive,” Madison wrote.
Comcast is currently in a racial discrimination case before the U.S. Supreme Court as they are being sued by Byron Allen for $20 billion. Allen asserts that Comcast declined to carry his suite of seven lifestyle channels because of bias.
Allen’s case has been dismissed three times by a federal court judge, but last year the Ninth Circuit reversed that on appeal. Comcast appealed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which held oral arguments on Nov. 13.
Diddy has also commented on his experience with Comcast. As the owner of Revolt TV, he was extremely critical of Comcast for a lack of a support beyond its initial distribution agreement for Revolt TV in 2013
Comcast has defended itself, saying that it “ is proud of our strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, including an unmatched record of supporting diverse and independent networks, carrying 160 independent networks, 100 of which are targeted to diverse audiences,” a Comcast spokesperson said Friday. “We are also proud to have launched eight new minority-owned cable channels since 2011, bringing these channels into millions of homes. From the start, we provided a long-term commitment to carriage of these channels and were committed to the success of these channels. Seven years after the launch of the channels under the [the deal with civil rights groups], all of them are still carried to millions of Comcast homes.”