This week marks another historic milestone in black media, with the launch of Bounce TV, the nation's first-ever, free broadcast television network marketed exclusively to African-American audiences. Founded by entertainment industry luminaries and businessmen Andrew Young, Martin Luther King III, Andrew "Bo" Young III, television executives Ryan Glover and Jonathan Katz and filmmakers Rob Hardy and Will Packer, the channel targets African Americans primarily between the ages of 25 and 54 with 24-hour programming that includes movies, live sporting events, documentaries and inspirational faith-based programs.
"It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities when we approached by Ambassador Andrew Young, Martin Luther King III and Ryan Glover. They had this idea and this concept that was past its germination stage," said Packer, the network's Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer. "They came to myself and Rob and said, 'Listen, this is what we want to do. This has the potential to be historic. We want you guys to be apart of this launch, first African-American broadcast network. We want you to bring the same energy and perspective and the same marketing that you have brought to your projects that have been successful.’ And we said, 'You know what, just the potential of a project like this, how could we say no? How could we not be apart of it?"
Becoming the nation's debut free African-American network comes with a bevy of hurdles and obstacles, but according to former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, Packer and Hardy bring their unique backgrounds to the project, which gives the project an exceptional promise.
"The young men have had experience in working with Tyler Perry and Turner Network Television. They have promoted sports events, historically black football, boxing," he explained to The Huffington Post. "There's just a whole genre of ideas that they have come up with that they now have a platform to present to the nation for free. The possibilities are limitless."
Although the co-founders of Rainforest Films already have a proven production track record, which includes the feature films "Stomp The Yard," "Takers" and "This Christmas," a broadcast network is a project of an entirely different order.
"We expected challenges and we had challenges. You're talking about launching a network; so with any network, no matter what type of network it is, you're going to have the challenges of financing, the challenges of distribution, the challenges of marketing," Packer said. "Certainly when you're talking about an African-American broadcast network, you're going to have those same challenges, plus some additional ones. We were also coupled with the opportunity of being the first, and anytime you’re the first to do something, it's almost like uncharted territories. But what I'm excited about is the fact that we've met these challenges head on. The network is launching and it's going to launch in over 50 percent of the country. And that is absolutely huge."
The network will launch in metropolitan areas (San Francisco, Las Vegas, Houston, Kansas City and Atlanta, among others). Not to mention the network’s acquisition of rights to nearly 400 African-American motion pictures in four individual, multi-year licensing agreements with NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, Sony Pictures Television, Codeblack Entertainment and Image Entertainment. For a channel that bills itself as "moving forward with energy," they seem to be doing just that. Something that Executive Vice President Ryan Glover says was instrumental in choosing the channel's name.
"Back in the '80s ... we would always say, 'Hey, let's bounce here. Let's bounce to the mall, let's bounce over to this girl's house,'" he explained. "It was always a term that we used dearly to express how we went with energy. So I just thought, metaphorically that's where we're going from a linear television standpoint. We are moving forward with energy."
Looking forward, Bounce TV is planning to develop its original programming, which could feature an annual awards ceremony.
"We are deep into development right now on a variety of projects. I think that there is content out there that will resonate with African Americans and those who enjoy African-American culture and lifestyle," Packer stated. "And there's not another network that's doing it. So that's going to be interesting to us.
"But that is something that several groups have tried to do, in terms of an award show," he continued. "As a filmmaker, I'm interested in an awards show that would highlight and showcase the contributions of African Americans in film and television year to year. There's really nothing like that. You got kind of broader award shows like the Image Awards, the BET Awards, that include categories but none that specifically focus on black movies and television, so I think that's a smart idea. I think there's an opportunity for it.”
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