Monday, November 29, 2021

EUR EXCLUSIVE: Comcast’s Keesha Boyd on How AFRO and CLEO TV are ‘All About The Culture’


*As the Executive Director of Multicultural Products at Comcast, Keesha Boyd says the launch of AFRO and CLEO TV “is all about the culture,” noting that both networks “are adding to the landscape of diverse offerings and making it richer.”

As we previously reported, Comcast has selected TV One’s CLEO TV and Afrotainment’s AFRO as the latest independent channels to receive broad distribution on its cable systems. Both networks will add to Comcast’s growing catalog of rich programming for the African American community and all consumers.

CLEO TV is a lifestyle and entertainment network targeting Millennial and Gen X women of color and offering a mix of entertainment and lifestyle programming with an emphasis on food, travel, finance and business and pop culture.

AFRO is a ‘polycultural black network’ featuring movies, acquired and original TV series and other programming representing African American cultures in the United States and beyond.

In other words, CLEO TV and AFRO are all about diversity and representation.

EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught up with Keesha Boyd to dish about her #BlackGirlMagic, gender/diversity profitability and what these two new networks mean for the TV Landscape. Get into our Q&A below.

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Television, cable networks and streaming services have a mixed track record when it comes to onscreen representation and diversity. So is the solution to the diversity problem more diversity with networks like CLEO TV and AFRO?

KB: It’s certainly one of the solutions. I think there’s lots of ways to address diversity it in the programing space but distribution, which is how were going at it, is certainly one. Adding networks to the larger landscape with more programming in the underrepresented genres for underrepresented audiences, that’s really what AFRO and CLEO are looking to do. So for sure distribution and the ability to create a larger platform for underrepresented stories to be told,  I think that’s one way to go at it. Then there’s other ways like behind the camera and in front of the camera. We have Karen Horne, she runs our NBCU TIPS program, which is actually a development program that specifically focuses on developing diverse talent in front of and behind the camera. So that’s another way to go after it. I think recently the Hollywood Reporter published an article showcasing 62 Black women writers behind the scenes. So I think it’s about creating awareness and supporting the folks who are in the space of doing the work of creating diverse programming and shining a light on it and making it available across platforms.

Research says “gender diversity is a competitive differentiator and will make you a more profitable entity.” Do you agree, and did this play a factor in Comcast’s decision to acquire CLEO TV?

KB: I’ll answer that two ways. First, I think diversity is good business. Whenever you have diverse thought, diverse ideas, people from diverse backgrounds, you get richer conversation. You get richer business ideas. You get a richer repository to pull from to be able to drive your business forward. I think for Comcast, what we did with regards to how we selected these Networks, our first focus was for sure the content. It was about, is this content going to help us create value for our customers? And then also, is it content that is helping us to fill a gap that we might have, particularly in the adult content space? Or, is it going to help us expand on content that maybe we only had a limited amount of. And in this case, CLEO really leans into that gen-X millennial woman of color and I think if you ask the folks over at CLEO they’ll say that that woman in particular is very conscious of the content that she’s consuming  and is looking to find herself in the content that she’s consuming and probably is having to pull it from a variety of spaces. So what they’re looking to do with their programming is keep that woman front and center and curate a content experience that’s gonna represent her.

And then you have networks like AFRO, which is an established network but new on the Comcast platform, that’s really leaning into Nollywood movies; Nigerian movies, which are hugely popular, and when we think about what we’re offering our customers, that’s a space where we really had an opportunity to grow that content. So I’m just excited to have them both added to our platform because they both represented the underrepresented groups across larger distribution.

What does CLEO TV and AFRO bring to the Comcast family that’s unique and vital to sustainable growth?

KB: When I think about the fact that young women of color are really making their voice heard in the content creation space, in the social media space, in the pop culture space, it makes sense that a brand like TV One would stand up to a new network like CLEO to really cater to that woman. For us it’s about how do we add to our offering? There’s certainly programming for this woman and it’s across a lot of different networks and a lot of different platforms so I think what we’re going by launching CLEO is adding to what’s available for that woman. It’s about creating more opportunity for that woman to be able to access content that’s going to help her live her best life. And from the AFRO perspective, I think Nigerian movies, if you haven’t been in that space before, they are hugely popular movies. It’s an opportunity for us to really ramp up that programming and hopefully introduce it to new audiences. And I think anytime you can create more visibility for content that serves under represented groups, it helps the larger viewing audience. Whether you’re a part of that underrepresented group or you’re someone who wants to learn more about content that speaks to that underrepresented group. It just works on all levels.

What do you say to those who ask how CLEO TV and AFRO stand out from networks like BOUNCE, TV ONE and BET?

KB: I think each of those networks has their own personality and their own content line-up that speaks to the audience that they’re going after. I think BOUNCE has really great, original family content and a library that people enjoy. TV ONE continues to be a leading network in the space of originals and alternative programming and then BET is this classic, staple. They’re certainly tapped into pop culture and young, black millennials. So I think they all have their own personality and own space but that’s just three networks. So CLEO and AFRO, it’s not like they’re joining a crowded space. They are adding to the landscape of diverse offerings and making it richer. There’s lots of room along that continuum of diverse content to keep adding content that’s going to speak to not only the underrepresented groups but just help us tell more of that story that the African American community is not a homogenous group. AFRO and CLEO add to that overall landscape to really reinforce that message.

Will social media and mobile applications play a vital part in the structure and growth of CLEO TV and AFRO?

KB: I think for sure what is paramount for AFRO and CLEO and really any network at this point is making sure that content is available on whatever device your audience wants to consume it on. We’re launching these networks as linear channel networks but they’ll also have an Xfinity On-Demand presence. They’ll also be part of our Xfinity stream app so people can live stream them. It’s really about making the content device agnostic. With CLEO specifically — because they’re leaning into Gen-X and millennial women of color — that’s a very social audience. So I think you’re going to see with their programming strategy that they are going to be bringing in familiar faces that have deep presences online and are influential online and it will be interesting to watch them and see how they approach that. How they bring that online world into the linear space and vice versa. I’m excited to see it.

As a Black female executive at the helm of the launch of these two new networks, how does it feel to be adding your #BlackGirlMagic to this dynamic moment in television history?

KB: It’s so exciting. I love that question, thank you so much!I’m tremendously excited to do what small part I can to help create more access via a company as reputable as Comcast and Xfinity as our platform. This platform is so powerful, so to be able to helm and be a part of history — CLEO is a brand new network, and to create opportunities that make room for these new voices, whether they’re in front of the camera or behind the camera and up and coming talent and to help support AFRO in their growth — it’s just heartwarming. It’s why I love my job. That for me is what makes it all work it. It’s really being able to say at the end of the day that the work that me and my team does is all about the culture and doing what we can to leverage this great platform to serve the culture in this way. All that to say I’m excited!

For more information about CLEO TV visit: http://mycleo.tv/

Afrotainment website: http://www.afrotainment.us

 

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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