Monday, September 20, 2010


CNN anchor Don Lemon definitely got the ball rolling at Wednesday’s General Session, as the moderator of the panel called: "The New Original." Gathered in the Grand Ballroom, another packed house witnessed meaningful dialog and exclusive video clips from the top info-content providers we all know and love: BET, CNN Worldwide and MTV/Nickelodeon Network all represented.The central theme centers around producing content for a diverse consumer audience. What does that look like? What images accurately reflect the authenticity of a particular community or ethnic group? How does programming convey cultural sensitivities like language, lifestyle and values? The panel of executives included Loretha Jones, President of Original Programming for BET Networks; Geraldine Moriba, Executive Producer, “In America” production unit, CNN Worldwide; and Ligiah Villalobos, Producer/Writer of the children’s series, "Go Diego Go." Quoting Oprah Winfrey, Villalobos summed it all up by saying: "The best defense against racism is excellence." That, my friends, says it all.

After completing his two-year term, NAMIC’s Board Chair, Mark Garner of A&E Television Networks will step down to assume the role of Immediate Past Chair, this fall. As part of that transition, NAMIC’s incoming Board Chair, Raymond Gutierrez of CBS Television Networks will begin his term. The torch will be passed, and judging from Garner's excellent track record and legacy as the son of Nathan Garner, one of NAMIC’s founders, Gutierrez has a big role and some huge shoes to fill. Welcome Raymond and all the best to Mark, from your colleagues and friends at NAMIC!

IT's A Wrap!
We got digi-for sure. And lovely weather in Gotham city complimented the 24th Annual conference in a big way. I noticed a lot of happy faces, despite the fact that many folks in the industry are newly unemployed. NAMIC's conference is not only informative, but also reinvigorating and inspiring. All the lessons learned, all the case studies shared, and all of our hopes for the future are wrapped into a package that is now 30 years old. So if your membership needs renewal, don't let it continue to lapse. This organization is only as good as it's members, corporate sponsors and partners. NAMIC is a force to be recognized, and the best is yet to come!

Signing off in 2010….you've been around town with Fred Brown!

Photos from Mickey Leland Humanitarian Achievement Award Luncheon

What it Takes to Create Your Own Show! by Wendy Todd

Carole Kirschner, career strategist, lecturer and facilitator of the CBS Diversity Writer’s Institute led a workshop, which addressed the key points of what it takes to create a show.

Participants were asked to re-create an existing show. The team I sat in on was recreating Gilligan’s Island. What I loved is seeing a sheet of possible cast members from every background. (And for some reason I seemed to have forgotten that Selena Gomez is actually Latina!)

There were worksheets on the table that helped participants compile characters in terms of assigning them traits; age, personality, role in the show, relationship to others… If anyone has been thinking of writing a show (and let’s be honest, most of us have fantasized about it if not actually written one, at least in our minds) it’s a good exercise. It’s actually a critical exercise because this is how any new show begins before you even write. You’ve got to have characters. Kirschner went over key points to consider in the creation of a show like:

Are the re-imagined characters compelling?

If it’s a drama, is it dramatic?

If it’s a comedy, is it funny?

Is it clear the show will appeal to the targeted demographic?

This all seems pretty basic right? Yes, it’s basic, but also essential.

Q&A with Carole Kirschner:

Q: Why do you feel diversity in programming is important?

A: It’s important that what you see on television is a reflection of yourself. (It’s important) that the people on TV look like the people in the audience. We live in a diverse world and there have been inequities for too long.

Q: What has made you champion diversity in media?

A: The Writer’s Guild and CBS approached me to do a one-day seminar for writers of color who had been on The WB. So when they got rid of them (when the channel disbanded) there were all these writers who weren’t getting jobs. So the purpose of the seminar was to educate them on what they needed to do to reposition themselves by knowing what they needed in their portfolios. And from that experience, I started the CBS Writer’s Institute.

We need more of this—more education and more assistance in developing skills and opportunities for people of color to create and contribute to programming. The time is now!

Finding Talent and Finding Yourself by Wendy Todd

I attended a Diversity and Inclusion panel and thought it was going to be a conversation about how to address corporation’s challenges with acquiring a diverse staff. And it was, but the conversation turned into really focusing on the job seeker and being able to define yourself for yourself and then creating your authentic career.

Maryam Banikarim talked about her experience as a child growing up in a family who traveled a lot, and how that led her to do a mock up of a travel guide. Through a series of calls, meetings and events, she got a position in marketing that led her to the advertising world. Currently Banikarim is the Senior Vice President of Integrated Sales and Marketing at NBC Universal. She explained that, “being true to herself wasn’t necessarily right for a lot of people,” so she had to make choices that made sense to her. I think that’s key in forging a path of any kind.

It was funny listening to Michael Smith, General Manager of the Cooking Channel talk about his childhood as the “geeky kid” who “looked black but didn’t sound black.” He said he felt like a misfit. But he discovered he felt comfortable making people feel entertained. This realization helped him find his niche. I love hearing those kinds of stories. I really appreciate it when people are willing to be honest.

Seems as if this panel about finding diverse talent had an undertone about finding yourself. I think once you know what you want it’s easier to get it. At least you know where to start looking!

Diverse Programming: Create Your Own Opportunities by Wendy Todd

As Wednesday’s General Session of the NAMIC conference was populated by a female panel, moderator, Don Lemon of CNN said, “women are going to take over the world.” (Uh, we created the world!) Now that we have that cleared up, let’s talk about “The New Originals”.

I asked the question about the approach to creating quality programming for people of color. Because as we know, a lot of times when we get black programming, it’s not great quality. Loretha Jones, President of Original Programming at BET talked about the channel’s foray into scripted programming stating, “When I have these meetings in L.A., I tell the people I meet with that I want you to stop thinking the network BET stands for Black Entertainment Television, (but better yet) Best Entertainment Television. If people are coming to us and bringing us a show just because it’s black, that’s not what we’re interested in.” And Jones reiterated that, “Quality trumps color.” She qualified that the quality has to be there first, but it’s “equally important” to represent ethnic experiences. I was happy to hear that. BET showed a sneak peek of their sitcom starring Malcolm Jamal Warner and Tracee Ellis Ross (of Girlfriends) about a married couple with two teenage children entitled, Read Between the Lines. I think it has potential.
Regarding the challenges of getting more diverse programming on the air, Ligiah Villalobos, Writer and Producer of Go Diego Go explained that, “A lot of these networks are not willing to take a risk. The shows that were hits were not copy cat shows.” Latinos will be 50 million strong and there isn’t one Latino show (non-animated) on air.” That’s really interesting. Villalobos, whose working on her own remedy to that situation, went on to point out how there are several new daytime talk shows in the works and there are NO Latino hosts. That’s amazing, and hard to understand. She talked about how one show is about moms, and they managed to find a lesbian mom, but no Latina mom, when Latinos, “make babies like rabbits!” The audience laughed.

Geraldine Moriba discussed and showed a clip from a CNN documentary to air soon, All Mighty Debt, about African American’s loss of wealth. Moriba said, “African Americans have the highest rate of unemployment, foreclosure, and education debt,” which plays into why the black middle class is shrinking. The story about the 17-year old boy, Fred who can’t afford college broke my heart. I hate how people can’t afford what is due to them—it’s a person’s right to get an education. I felt a bit sad after watching the clip, which shows how moving and effective the series will be.

“The New Originals” was a really good panel that attendees continued to discuss later. It was good because it was “real talk” peppered by a somewhat tense exchange between Don Lemon and a man who asked him why he was upset about the lack of diversity on television, if in fact “quality trumps color”. Lemon had to quickly break it down to the gentleman and explain that, as Ms. Jones had explained - it’s about quality and representing diversity of the audience. Lemon lobbed that seemingly contentious inquiry right back with a poised and intelligent explanation.
I had a good time at this panel. And, I think regarding programming, things have to change. Don Lemon summed it up nicely by opening up the panel and stating, “It’s not about joining the club, it’s about creating the club.” Well said, Don. Well said.

Creating Content That Travels! International Content and Distribution by Wendy Todd

I learned that there are a number of factors when it comes to creating international programming. What resonates in the states doesn’t necessarily translate abroad.

For Lino Garcia, General Manager of ESPN Deportes, which has been in the international business for over 20 years, soccer is a big draw for the Hispanic community. “Soccer is key among Mexicans and among the population we service, (a community of 20 Spanish speaking countries). Soccer travels well across borders,” Lino explains. For other networks that provide original scripted programming, the international approach is different.

Portia Archer, Vice President of International Distribution and Video on Demand at HBO says, “We focus on compelling, quality distinct content. We work with creators who have a specific point of view. In terms of what travels, again HBO is centered around high quality and universal themes. Those attributes tend to travel well.”

Mark Walton is the Executive Vice President of Sponsorship and Corporate Development for The Africa Channel. First, I loved him because he introduced himself by beating a toy drum! He went on to explain that his channel faced a different set of challenges when launching an international network. “We have Africa as our content piece. Unfortunately, the world has not had as favorable a view of Africa,” Walton explains, adding that demystifying the content was the first issue at hand in terms of approaching programming for the channel. “I found that to be very interesting,” said Walton. “Another issue I hadn’t even considered, was that in term s of programming internationally, the fact that when trying to sell a lifestyle show, obviously the socio-economic factors drive what people will respond to.”

Jene Elzie, Vice President of Sales and Strategic Planning for Comcast International Media Group, explained that when attempting to distribute Celebrity Chef G. Garvin’s show on TV One overseas, it didn’t sell in Africa as they thought. Though Africa’s middle class is increasing, a lot of the audience didn’t have access to the recipe ingredients. “As a network, you don’t want to make viewers feel as if the goal of the show-therefore the lifestyle is unattainable,” said Elzie. “The surprising fact is that Hungary was actually the first country to buy the show.”

So as a writer and television viewer attending this panel of international programming authorities, I was struck by the fact that when it comes to creating or distributing content for and to an international audience, there are a lot of factors that have to be considered beyond the norm. To successfully launch a show internationally, it takes a real understanding of other countries and cultures and how they live and what makes sense for them. I’ve been motivated to seek out some programming that goes beyond the states. I’ll be getting my media passport!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Out Of Character by Christina Cicchelli

It’s “Moonlighting” meets “Mississippi Marsala”

How about this pitch? It’s “Moonlighting” meets “Mississippi Marsala” – a hot Bollywood superstar fails to make it big in America and is forced to waste away his fine talent and looks at a P.I. Agency. He works for a professional and older partner-in-crime, a lady who won’t take crap from anyone, including a na├»ve and slightly narcissistic jerk like him… but could sparks inevitably fly? This was the concept my group and I brainstormed for the incredibly fun and engaging Multi-Ethnic Content and Programming Session.

The session, entitled “Out of Character” was a large creative workshop that broke up its guests into small groups. Career Strategist and Lecturer, Carole Kirschner, provided us with info detailing different television shows, most of which were a decade old or more. Alongside this were script breakdown sheets, all of which filled me with great joy. Project! Together, I worked with three other media professionals, individuals who have produced or created content in one way or another. I had to puff my chest out for a moment and bring my literary and creative skills to the table and we all decided to transform the Bruce Willis/Cybill Shepherd rom com Moonlighting into a version that provides plenty of color and romantic conflict.

The easy part was creating memorable and marketable characters that audiences would love. We chose an East Indian protagonist, Raj, who migrates to the United States and must learn to work hard (if at all) in order to make ends meet. Using some knowledge we had about the Indian culture helped us build a convincing and compelling back story, one that would deliver plenty of story for potential episodes. Jackson Heights, NY is such the diverse and unsung neighborhood in Queens it seemed to be the perfect setting for our show. Our female protagonist, however, wasn’t given as much of an extensive background; that said, she proved significant to Raj’s transition to the country and a tough cookie who stands out on her own accord. By the end of our exercise we had a story, characters and even some episode ideas that still used themes of romance and culture familiar to audiences.

But, we continually returned to the question of how well our new show would fit in and who the target audience might be. And these were common issues that most of the other groups had faced as well. It was a great experiment that showed us both the ups and downs of creating a one-of-a-kind original that cable networks will hopefully find likable enough for our target audience: Females in their mid- twenties to late 30s. A broad demographic, sure, but ambition was the name of the game. And storytellers have to be ambitious if they believe their unique characters will break through the conventional face of content today.

Creating Content That Travels! - International Content and Distribution by Wendy Todd

I learned that there are a number of factors when it comes to creating international programming. What resonates in the states doesn’t necessarily translate abroad.

For Lino Garcia, General Manager of ESPN Deportes, which has been in the international business for over 20 years, soccer is a big draw for the Hispanic community. “Soccer is key among Mexicans and among the population we service, (a community of 20 Spanish speaking countries). Soccer travels well across borders,” Lino explains. For other networks that provide original scripted programming, the international approach is different.

Portia Archer, Vice President of International Distribution and Video on Demand at HBO says, “We focus on compelling quality distinct content. We work with creators who have a specific point of view. In terms of what travels, again HBO is centered around high quality and universal themes. Those attributes tend to travel well.” Mark Walton is the Executive Vice President of Sponsorship and Corporate Development for The Africa Channel. First, I loved him because he introduced himself by beating a toy drum! He went on to explain that his channel faced a different set of challenges when launching an international network.

“We have Africa as our content piece. Unfortunately the world has not had as favorable a view of Africa,” Walton explains, adding that demystifying the content was the first issue at hand in terms of approaching programming for the channel. I found that to be very interesting. Another issue I hadn’t even considered was that in terms of programming internationally was the fact that when trying to sell a lifestyle show, obviously the socio-economic factors color what people will respond to.

Jene Elzie, Vice President of Sales and Strategic Planning of Comcast International Media Group, explained that when attempting to distribute the G. Garvin show on the TV One overseas, it didn’t sell in Africa as they thought, because though Africa’s middle class is increasing, a lot of the audience didn’t have access to the ingredients, and as a network, you don’t want to make viewers feel as if the goal of the show-therefore the lifestyle is unattainable. Hungary was actually the first country to buy the show. Wow! That was surprising.

So when it comes to creating or distributing content for and to an international audience, there are a lot of factors that have to be considered and it goes beyond the books. It takes a real understanding of other countries and cultures and how they live and what makes sense for them. I’ve been motivated to seek out some programming that goes beyond the states. I’ll be getting my media passport!

Creating and Distributing Multi-Ethnic Programming-The New, the Old and the Future by Wendy Todd

Fact: More content is uploaded on Youtube in 2 months than TV has created in 60 years.

That fact indicates that people want to be e
ntertained instantaneously no matter where the content comes from whether it’s in a traditional format, or other. Then the challenge becomes creating not only original content for network and cable TV, but programming that actually reflects and resonates with a diverse audience. Networks and consumer companies have been experimenting with how to deliver original content and products in a way that meets the needs of multi-ethnic audiences and consumers.

Smokey Fontaine, Chief Content Officer at Interactive One moderated a panel discussion regarding the topic. He said, “Original content seems like a contradiction in terms. The idea that you could aggregate content seems quite odd. You better have a strong business model of how to monetize that content.” Actress and producer Tatiana Ali of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame, gave her explanation of how she addressed this issue.

“We’re an independent production company, (Hazrah Entertainment) so for us the excitement is to bring original narratives that might have a hard time finding a place in traditional media,” Ali explains. She partnered with Procter and Gamble and got funding to bring Buppies, an online show to the public. The show was picked up and debuted by BET and attracted over 5 million viewers. Ali’s company will be producing her sitcom, Love That Girl on TV One next year, in conjunction with Martin Lawrence. Ali originally chose a digital format to distribute her content, which was the easiest choice at the time. Other more established brands, like MTV face less distribution obstacles.

Nusrat Durrani, SVP and GM of MTV World talked about the importance of digital distribution. “One of key advantages MTV has is one of most distributed brands out there. If advertisers or content creators come to us they already know they have the reach. Content for us is also very important. If you have a good piece of content you will find distribution,” Durrani explains.

Kisha Mitchell Williams, Multicultural Brand Manager at Procter and Gamble is part of a team that utilized an approach more and more companies are using to create a full circle solution to getting their product to consumers. “We used to be all about product placement, making relevant connections to the brand. Now it’s about creating content that (reaches the viewers),” explains Williams, referencing the “My Black is Beautiful” campaign. I learned that particular campaign began because it was discovered that nearly 80% of African American women are extremely disenchanted with the way their portrayed in media. (I co-sign on that!)

It seems companies are really recognizing that various ethnic groups are lacking representation in media and are creating separate entities to address the void. But I seemed to stump the panel when I asked if there was resistance to integrating ethnic themes into main stream programming as opposed to or in conjunction with creating totally separate entities. There was a pretty long pause, but then Mitchell jumped in and stated that some products need niche marketing, but other products can cross over. “It has to make sense,” she explained, noting that Coca Cola, for example is a brand that can be targeted to a niche audience or mainstream.

The importance of an online presence was reiterated. Philip Wang, Co-Founder of Wong Fu Productions, a company that provides Asian programming on the web, has found his entire fan base online. “When people are given a choice people will find a show (they like). They want entertainment at their fingertips. We’ve carved out a very specific audience. What we’re hopeful for is that the web is really the future.” He goes on to state that, “One of the struggles is to stand out among the plethora of terrible videos, but there are good content creators out there.” Ali also agreed that maintaining the loyalty of viewers, particularly the community that was formed online is key, and cautioned, “Don’t leave the web audience behind and make them feel like they’re a stepping stone.”

Regarding diversity in general, not all ethnic groups are represented on their own channel as of yet, and have to become creative with getting their own authentic stories to the public. “Online is pretty much the only place we can be, it’s sad, (that we don’t have our own BET, or Univision) but empowering (to have a) devoted online fan base,” Wang explains.

And in terms of creating content that not only reflects diversity but reaches a mainstream audience, Ali says that a good story will attract a cross section of viewers, demonstrated in shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The George Lopez Show. And I think that’s the main ingredient; a good story, i.e. a quality product will attract viewers and consumers whether you are trying for a mainstream audience or targeting a specific market.

Personally I’m happy to see people striking out and finding new ways to bring a diverse content to the masses. I for one will support entrepreneurial efforts as well as projects from established brands as long as the quality is there. I think we’ve entered a fantastic time in media where anything goes. We’re no longer hindered by traditional formats and funding. I hope this new era of media opens the door for more creative people to get their own brand of genius to the public!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

NAMIC Launches in 3D by Fred Brown

RISE AND SHINE - IT'S NAMIC TIME! It's true - the early bird really does get the biscuit! And so did the 400 participants who lined up at 7 am, to attend the opening breakfast, sponsored by CableFax Daily. Sponsored by TuTv, the breakfast honored “The Most Influential Top 100 Minorities in Cable”. And boy did they show up in living color!
In a rousing panel discussion about building a pipeline to diversity, led by Cable Fax's Michael Grebb and Seth Arenstein, this shop-talk highlighted some of the successes with NAMIC's ELDP program, and the role of mentorship. "I remember being challenged about gender and race and once corporate setting, and I had an Oprah Winfrey-Color Purple moment...", commented Loretta Walker, Senior VP and Chief Human Resources Officer at Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. "What I learned was that I could be a fighter within, rather than fighting the system." Now that's a nugget to remember.

General Session: Broadband Communications: Are We There Yet? Well according to newly appointed FCC Commissioner The Honorable Mignon Clyburn, the telecommunications industry is well on its way. Commissioner Mignon left no stone unturned in her keynote address, saying that NAMIC could be assured that at the FCC, the organization has a "promotion partner" inside the coveted walls of the nation's media regulatory agency.

The Executive panel, led by ABC's “Good Morning America” anchor Juju Change, included some heavy hitting- movers and shakers in the industry, who talking about the number one topic of the century: final numbers from the U.S. Census count. One major concern reported by Associate of Urban Planning at UCLA , Professor Leobardo Estrada, PhD. Is that with new population demographics is that advertisers can now look at traditionally ethnic market buys in more general market terms. And that’s the good news for all of us.

Luncheon: "Who has influenced You...and How Do You Plan to give Back? Now we know why Eric Liu was so successful as President Bill Clinton's speech-writer...the man can speak! Quoting from his new book titled: Guiding Lights, Liu shared some powerful and inspirational keynotes that can help anyone interested in creating a winning life.

Lights...Cameras...The Excellence in Multi-Cultural Marketing Awards” As far as the EMMA’s are concerned, everyone’s a winner! Hosted by ESPN Deportes Commentator Ernesto Jerez, the industry’s top leaders were on-hand to view clips of their work, and get the awards they deserve, following a rigorous evaluation/judging process. The “Hot Topics” panel includes topics related to how the world’s growing multi-ethnic audiences are being reflected is cross-platform marketing campaigns. The role of NAMIC media professionals in presenting accurate and impactful content delivery that reflects cultural diversity was also discussed.

That’s it for now. See you tomorrow. And remember...GET-DIGI with NAMIC!

Latino Lowdown: The 2010 AP Universal Overview by Christina Cicchelli

As we close out part one of NAMIC’s jam-packed Diversity Conference, the attendees are a-twitter with news and updates about all of the goings-on. The social media that dovetails so seamlessly alongside other traditional modes of communication (i.e. talking or writing a letter) are now a daily habit for most, if not, all Americans. But, in Hispanic America 2010, Nielsen Research Representatives Doug Darfield and Ceril Shagrin present us with a comprehensive survey that breaks down social trends amongst the Latino community.

Those who have taken the 2010 AP Univision Poll provided info about their gender, location, finances, and how much or little they spoke English and Spanish. What may appeal the most to NAMIC attendees are statistics directly related to media use. For example, Shagrin pointed out that a large number of those who spoke only or mostly English surfed Spanish-speaking websites, presumably to research news and other pertinent information for Spanish-speaking family members or friends. Also, regardless of how much English or Spanish Latinos spoke, a high number of those who took the survey used the Internet to primarily research household appliances, automobiles, and other related products. Darfield found this quite surprising, as it meant that the Latino demographic specifically selected different types of media for different reasons. This insight may help advertisers determine how to make the most of media platforms that attract this particular demographic.

So, what to do with this vital source of information? Well, that’s up to you! Both Darfield and Shagrin leave us with more questions than answers as to how one can effectively use this to reach the Hispanic market. But, you may discover that this research provides an abundance of opportunities for those seeking creative approaches to tapping the Hispanic market. The social trends listed in the AP Universal Poll not only detail the habits of how much this demographic uses digital technology, but also provides a background that anyone in advertising and marketing can take advantage of. To request a copy of this innovative poll, contact Doug Darfield and Ceril Shagrin or The Nielsen Company and become an influential presence for the next best growing audience.

You Have to Sweat the Small Stuff by Christina Cicchelli

“You Have to Sweat the Small Stuff”: Discussing Mergers & Acquisitions at The Leadership Development Panel
Mergers & Acquisitions can be a scary concept. When this daunting transition comes to mind, one can only fathom the amount of dramatic change that can happen in any business, both big and small. Redundancies, international mishaps and other “derailers” can make a merger a living heck! Luckily, today’s panel, Let’s Make a Deal: Shepherding the Human Asset Strategy Through the Merger Morass, tackled these issues head-on!

Moderated by EVP of Human Resources in Scripps Network, Chris Powell engaged in the common obstacles that he and his peers face during a merger. One major issue was the question of understanding and integrating two different cultures that possess two different business structures and philosophies. Eric Hawkins, SVP Human Resources of Discovery Communications, related the troubling task of translating Dutch employee contracts, a result of an international merger that was seemingly lost in translation. The issue of due diligence was a challenge for Senior VP of Human Resources at A&E, Rosalind Clay Carter, whom had to consider the various mergers that occurred within a single company: “Our investors decided it was a really good idea and the reality was there was no consideration involving the culture because it was consideration based on their prospective business needs.”

Such considerations obviously impact employees to a tremendous degree, as the changing of owners and philosophies directly affect an employee’s significance to that company. And, unsettling futures in an economically challenging landscape was definitely a hot topic. However, the panelists all proved that there are effective ways of making integrations run as smoothly as possible. In fact, the solutions were described in three words: Communication, compassion, and recruitment. All of these human resources representatives wanted to maintain a humane standpoint when handling the needs of their employees. For Raymond Gutierrez of CBS Television, he tries not to assume the needs of another company are the same as his networks based on cultural similarities: “We went in with a swagger that [sic] we were all from the same culture and that should do that. And it didn’t work out.” For Seepa Lee, VP of Employee Relations at Time Warner Cable instilled an integration period that would help her department “assess, identify, communicate, retain…” and move employees to appropriate locations that would suit their talents.

M&A is never an easy walk in the park. And the panelists did not sugarcoat this process. However, with each new trial and error scenario was an opportunity to learn from these experiences and make the next process as smooth as they can make it. And this Leadership Development session was an eye-opening look into how cable networks can effectively conduct integrations while ensuring that each daunting detail is scrutinized and hopefully smoothed out for a successful merger.

TV With Legs by Jesse Ricke

Building content for specific domestic markets requires a well informed demographic finesse, and content selection becomes more nuanced as companies seek out audiences in international markets. Each of the Content Passport panelists deal with specific complexities as they move their products across borders. Like when Comcast is showing African American centered content to international buyers, Jene Elizie has learned to showcase the cultural or personality elements over the ethnic. Surprisingly, Africa can be the more difficult market for African American shows, as they often feature black lifestyles that Africans perceive as out of reach.

The Africa Channel, represented by Mark Walton, has to deal with some original content decisions. Many of the formats that US audiences find familiar are still very new to the African domestic audiences they serve, so that when they broadcast a classic soap opera like their 'Jacob's Cross,' it "has legs" in Africa as well as in the US. They also produce a variety of programming featuring African talents - comedians, actors, musicians - as every audience "wants to see themselves." Walton explains that the channel finds audiences among the African diaspora and among internationals with a want for diverse portrayals from outside their comfort zones. This social aim of demystifying the continent gives even the traditional content a political intent that strikes me. With such a compelling story I'm very interested to hear more about this growing company.

All these qualities of audiences - that they appreciate the novel and the familiar, faces they can relate to and faces that surprise them - makes the international content game endlessly intricate. I think Portia Archer from HBO offered an insight that might make things much simpler. While HBO moves content across seas, they do not choose or produce content because of its international potential. HBO can trust their creators, with their original voices, to make content that's truly compelling, so when something like 'The Wire' plays well in certain demographics its probably more dependent on the shear quality of the content. They can also rely on their 'After Hours' adult content to be totally "gangbusters." In either case, audiences are shown to have a lot in common that companies can use in pushing content worldwide.

Bridgework by Jesse Ricke

This morning Leobardo Estrada, PhD listed some of the most prominent social problems facing the US, including a school system segregated by white flight, the perceived difficulties of integrating immigrants into US culture, the stigma of prison attached to African American males, and a growing schism between greying Americans and tech savvy echo-boomers. He then challenged the media community to find cross cultural solutions. But when the panelists described their relationships to their audiences, I heard a perception of audiences as necessarily fractured and segmented into marketable niches. This channel for the old, this one for blacks, here's one for the ladies, etc.

I would like to bring up Ethan Zuckerman, founder of Global Voices ( He identifies a certain kind of cultural player which he calls the "bridge figure" or the "third culture kid," a person brought up in two cultures who posses distinct ways of perceiving themselves and their place in society. Sometimes these figures remix the art of their two homes, sometimes they help explain the events in one culture to another. However they arise and however they act in the world, these kind of people are going to become a lot more common as the country diversifies, defying the segmented categories targeted by the marketers that the media industry relies on.

Scott Mills was right on when he said we aren't past race and never will be, but race, gender, and generation might start to look really weird. And if Estrada is right in believing our social ills require a solution that brings cultures together, then media companies might need to understand their audiences in different ways. We may need to see channels that don't aim to serve a specific niche, but that appeal across racial, generational, and gender divides. It might be more difficult to identify how the content should look - as a white male suburbanite I'm probably not qualified - but the cross-cultural population is coming up. Maybe we'll see it's manifestation in ten years on the next census. Maybe the industry should try thinking more about bridges right now.

Media in 3D Digital, Diversity and Demos! by Wendy Todd

This year’s 24th annual NAMIC conference, with the theme, “3D: Diversity, Digital, Demographics” has been really interesting so far. Learning how companies approach their marketing efforts in a niche market versus a mainstream and global market is something I didn’t really know about.

I attended the kick-off “General Session” featuring a panel discussion with leading industry players that was moderated by Juju Chang, ABC news anchor, who I’ve been watching every morning! (I love saying “Juju”.)

Scott Mills President and COO of BET Networks spoke about BET’s approach to reaching their core audience. “Focus on the idea that ethnicity is relevant along certain spectrums and not others. In terms of addressing the ethnicity of the viewers Mills said, “Understanding that dynamic as a way to respect, reflect , and elevate (viewers),” is critical. He says BET does that across all platforms. I found this interesting as BET has received so much criticism regarding its programming for not respecting, elevating or accurately reflecting its viewers. But then Mills added, “We’re (BET) engaged in a number of initiatives in conjunction with our parent company Viacom.”

It was good to hear that BET is taking steps to redefine and reposition the brand, which Mills stated was a process that included, “fundamentally understand(ing) what we want our brand to be, and allow that to dictate and assess every programming opportunity.” Great! It will be really interesting to see what BET comes up with and how it addresses its challenges with detractors.

I also love what Laureen Ong, President of Travel Channel had to say about pushing yourself past self imposed boundaries in terms of understanding diversity, and said, “If you want to understand cultural diversity put yourself in a situation outside your comfort zone.” (Ong, who’s Asian, took a trip to Hong Kong and found out that she was viewed as an American, which was a cultural awakening for her.) And regarding her organization’s (Scripps) approach to diversity, she explained, “We hold diversity as a core value.” And Ong suggests that as professional, “We should be more engaged with the diverse population that’s in our organizations. We have to challenge ourselves harder on the subject matter.” So be encouraged to break out of comfort zones!

Other panelists spoke about how they addressed a growing ethnic population. Cesar Conde, President of Univsion talked about the Latino/Hispanic market in terms of programming, and what that means when people of ethnic backgrounds have a foot hold in mainstream culture as well as their own. “We’ve seen a proliferation of the Hispanic market. There is such a connection back to their home country and home culture that it allows them to live in two worlds. Looking for the best high quality programming that is relevant to them (regardless of what language) connects to them from a cultural level (is our goal). He also informed us that “Mobile for the Hispanic market will be big business. We’re putting efforts behind those initiatives.”

Ong reiterated the power of a digital presence to promote diversity and said material that compliments the channel that’s even more relevant to segmented populations can be found online. “Digital opportunities are the perfect opportunity to enrich and compliment everything on a linear channel,” Ong explains.

In the closing remarks, Patrick Esser, President of Cox Communications said very frankly that, “We’ve made a huge investment (to address the changing demands of a diverse audience), and says, “Those who don’t, won’t be here in five years.”

Kyle McSlarrow, President and CEO of NCTA made a lot of sense with his wrap up statement, “The country’s already changed. The pace is changing and we (the media industry) better get on figuring out how to marry both diversity with opportunity.”

I am happy to know that industry leaders are in fact interested in addressing the needs and preferences of diverse media consumers. I look forward to experiencing the continued developments.

The Great Digital Divide: Facing Fear and Opportunity at The Executive Panel by Christina Cicchelli

As NAMIC celebrates its 30th anniversary, President Kathy Johnson reminds her captivated guests that the very foundation of the organization: “Help provide you with the tools to shape a 3D future.” And the future was the topic at hand at this morning’s Executive Panel. With the advancement of digital technology used to connect with the ever-increasing minority demographic as consumers and/or entrepreneurs comes great apprehension, or perhaps opportunity. This unique attitude was the underlying tone of today’s executive panel, 3D: Digital, Diversity, and Demographics.

FCC Commissioner and Keynote Speaker, Mignon Clyburn may have jokingly forgave her audience of cable professionals for such hyper-reality hits like Jersey Shore, but she is ambitious to not only change the look of all technology but also change the minds and mentality of the media world as well. With great veracity, Clyburn reminded us that we are on the brink of experiencing the “Majority Minority”, a term that best describes the increasing population of non-whites to whites in this country. Coupled alongside this phenomenon are the advancements in digital technology that consumers both young and old have come to embrace: Broadband cable, social media like Facebook, and mobile capabilities. “Delivering content [sic] over the broadband networks is a great example of one of these opportunities that are scary and yet exciting,” said Clyburn, who affirmed that the integration of both the new digital media and new demographic means innovative thinking on behalf of advertisers and networks who are desperate to reap the benefits of this major transition. But, as she also mentioned, it also affirmed that education and value in these different technologies are essential for consumers and entrepreneurs who hope to reap its benefits as well.

The 2010 Census was a highly anticipated topic in today’s panel, as it reflected the “Majority Minority” that Clyburn mentioned. Although this national survey has always held great significance in our country, Dr. Leobardo Estrada, Associate Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, believed that now more than ever this information will help advertisers and cable networks market appropriately to the corresponding changes. An increase in non-white voters, a rise in baby boomers whom have yet to leave the workforce, and the inflation of small businesses owned by minorities means that media must accommodate their demands. As Dr. Estrada told the audience, “The real challenge comes in the workplace and in the corporate culture and whether or not it can catch up with the diversity that has overtaken it.”

The panelists, moderated by ABC News Anchor Juju Chang, hoped to address these very challenges. In response to Estrada’s analysis of the 2010 Census, President and CEO of NCTA, Kyle McSlarrow, was optimistic about this integration: “Challenges and opportunities are one in the same,” he said. Cesar Conde, President of Univision Networks, made sure that he delivered content that would “…inform, obtain, and empower the Latino community here at the United States.” A similar objective was also heard from BET President and COO, Scott Mills. In response to delivering quality content to his audience, he also used a very simple mission: “Respect, reflect, and elevate.” Laureen Ong, President of The Travel Channel, spoke from a personal perspective, recounting her trips to Hong Kong. “If you really want to understand cultural diversity,” Ong said. “Put yourself in a situation that’s outside of your comfort zone.” This very statement defined the atmosphere of the panel: Cable Networks and advertisers are hungry to find new and better ways of reaching their changing audience.

3D: Digital, Diversity, and Demographics may have touched upon the anticipated concerns of a minority that has already begun to imbibe digital technology, but this very integration proves hopeful, if not empowering for those who learn of its great advantages and utilize them in very creative ways.

Energy, Reflection, and an Ace in the Hole by Jesse Ricke

NAMIC's General Session was part enriching analysis, part pep rally, energizing support for an industry facing demographic and technological upheavals made evermore pronounced by the upcoming US Census. The Brookings Institute was quoted as predicting that "demographic transformation could be America's ace in the hole." As the US population continues to fragment and digitize, groups like NAMIC are leaders in adapting to the new terrain, rather than attempting to ignore or simply mitigate these historical forces.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn's keynote address was a highlight of the morning, as her presence alone speaks to diversity's current centrality. She asserted one of NAMIC's prime messages, that diversity needs advocacy "not only because it is smart, but because it is right." She highlighted the technological changes that we are all familiar with and how business can act on those changes. Audiences are larger than ever, cable is the prime broadband provider, and the internet puts "microtargeting on steroids." The FCC's mentoring and community outreach programs were promoted, as was their actions to partner large companies with smaller ones, encouraging small and diverse businesses even as larger corporations continue to merger.

The voice of academia came to us through Leo Estrada, who presented a sneak peek at data from the 2010 census. The country's population is becoming more diverse, older, and more reliant on new media. Perhaps most heartening is the emerging political power in non-white youth, from whom we saw the greatest increase in voter turnout, and the boom in ethnic media. On the downside, our schools are more segregated than ever, as whites are putting their children in private schools, while dropout rates continue to plague the hispanic and African American youth. Estrada asked what role media companies could take in finding cross-cultural solutions to these social ills.

The panel discussion was filled by incredibly seasoned leaders in media business and thought. The leaders in ethnically targeted channels Univision and BET were happy to say they had transitioned from as niche stations to cultural forces in a multicultural nation with social ambitions. Cesar Conde spoke of Univision's panel on immigration, which they aired during prime time to stellar ratings, showing the market for intelligent, quality content. Scott Mills from BET noted that NAMIC did not push a post-racial image of the country; that race will always be important. He spoke highly of any company that can market themselves to a complex, segmented demographic, and earn the trust of their audiences. It's when this industry reflects on itself and realizes its immense social affect that it can become a positive social force, not just an intelligent community of businesses. It's that kind of reflection that I'm most happy to see at this conference.

Stories form Everywhere by Jesse Ricke

This Diversity and Inclusion panel on international relationships was full of stories. Each panelist held marked experiences that informed their conduct across cultural borders. They gave us these experiences, most always funny as embarrassment should be, through their narratives that we might share their insights. Subjects ranged from NBA promotion in a country that doesn't play much professional basketball with coaches clinics and youth camps, to the important gesture of calling your international partner according to their time zone, to the need for staff from the regions you serve before you can work in that region. Everyone urged all media practitioners to get out of the country and find out for themselves.

Every culture has its norms that must be researched and respected, but some helpful universals emerged; we all seek to understand one another, we all respect the reciprocity of shared trust, and so long as business is kept as the prime focus cultural misunderstandings can be dealt with. Perhaps most intriguing was the discussion on cultural transcendence, arising from new technologies as we all begin to know what LOL means, or apparent in how an engaging brand can transcend a nation as basketball is loved even in a culture with anti-American sentiment. It's these stories of overarching humanness that, to me, speak most saliently of the future.

Countdown To The Conference 2010

It's about to get-digi, with the 24th Annual NAMIC Conference less that 24 hours away! The New York Hilton is already a-buzz with conferees arriving from all over the country, to register and take full advantage of what NAMIC has to offer. Our offices are located on the 4th Floor, so stop by to say hello to the staff and post a blog in the media center.

The MOTOROLA sponsored blog team is ready to rock-and-roll, as NAMIC celebrates 30 years of diversity in the communications industry!

So what's the rundown? Well, just pull up your Electronic Program Guide (EPG) for the full schedule of panels, workshops, luncheons and events! Who needs papers, when you've got wireless access? Click here

to see the entire Conference guide, with you wherever you go.

September 14th - Highlights:

Tuesday kicks of at the crack-of-dawn, when CableFAX Daily honors the top minority leaders in the industry at our breakfast. Then, head over to the Opening General Session to hear the keynote speech of FCC Commissioner, The Honorable Mignon Clyburn, sponsored by WEtv. Don't miss Eric Liu, author and former Clinton Speech Writer as he lays down the law at the L. Patrick Mellon Mentorship Luncheon. The Career Expo kicks-off at 2 p.m., along with HOT TOPIC panels, and at 4:15, head straight to the red carpet for NAMIC's annual Excellence in Multi-Cultural Marketing Awards (EMMA) Ceremony, where the top marketers across the cable industry are recognized for their stellar work! Finally, you won't want to miss the 30th Anniversary Opening reception from 6-8 p.m. Don't hesitate, let's celebrate with a toast to success and hope for the future!

Our bloggers will be all over the place, so be ready to answer the question:
"What Does Diversity Mean to You?"

And we're looking for special soundbites to post on DiversityLive, which reflect important NAMIC "Member Moments", where you share personal experiences on how NAMIC affiliation has boosted your career goals and helped make you a better, more informed media professional.


See you soon,

Around Town with Fred Brown

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Hey you communications industry leaders out there. Welcome to the 24th Annual NAMIC Conference Blog!

Get buttoned-up and put on your roller blades, cause' there's plenty in store for you this year, as the conference returns to Gotham City’s Hilton New York Hotel, September 14-15th, in 3D! Thanks to the generous support of MOTOROLA, NAMIC is bringing you this conference blog, LIVE! We’ll post coverage of the conference events, and reach to you, our members, to tell us about your favorite “NAMIC MOMENT” at the industry diversity conference of the year!

Look for postings on the latest issues, trends and hot topics! View candid interviews with power-brokers and thought-leaders. And to coincide with "Diversity Week", we'll be asking you to post your comments in response to the central blog theme:"WHAT DOES DIVERSITY MEAN TO YOU?" So be on the look-out for our roving correspondents.

"3D: DIVERSITY, DIGITAL, DEMOGRAHICS" is our 2010 conference theme, and coming soon, we’ll be paperless! That means immediate access to all the conference program journal information, right at your finger-tips - on-line, though your lap-tops, I-PADs and mobile phones at: There, you'll find our daily schedule of panels, workshops and stay tuned.

And if that’s not enough for you, NAMIC celebrates a huge milestone this year: 30 YEARS! And NAMIC is poised for leadership for the next 30 years. We also want to give a special thanks to our Conference honorary co-chairs, planning committee, corporate sponsors, media partners, speakers and loyal members for all your support of NAMIC over the years. Be sure to join us on the evening of Tuesday, September 14th for the 30th Anniversary celebration!

Buckle-up, as we jet into the 21st century, full steam ahead!

Check out some of the 2010 Conference highlights: ...and more!

All aboard...the 24th Annual NAMIC Conference is about to BLAST OFF! See you there...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010