The Africa Channel, BLKFAM ink broad partnership for linear, streaming

The Africa Channel and BLKFAM, two Black-owned companies serving entertainment content, have teamed up for a broad partnership that spans joint distribution, marketing, ad sales and a co-branded content collaboration on both streaming and traditional linear TV.

The Africa Channel is a media company with its namesake traditional linear TV network that’s focused on programming celebrating diversity of African culture, with an aim of bridging the continent and the Global Black and African Diaspora. BLKFAM, meanwhile, is a new ad-supported streaming service founded by Larry Adams that launched in February with Whoopi Goldberg as an equity partner. BLKFAM serves Black-focused entertainment content that targets the whole family, including programming for kids and adults.

Now the two are cross-pollinating their complementary programming, resources and missions.

Specifically, the partnership includes co-development of a new BLKFAM-branded programming block on The Africa Channel (TAC), which is available through pay TV providers in the U.S., Canada and Caribbean.

Dubbed “BLKFAM on TAC,” the programming block has the goal of showcasing stories reflecting experiences, cultures and values of the global Black community.

“Content will be curated and programmed with the intent to present positive role models and foster greater understanding and appreciation of Black and African culture while bring[ing] families together for a shared co-viewing experience,” the partners stated in an announcement. 

In addition to an equity partner, Goldberg has signed on to steer creative development for exclusive programming on the BLKFAM platform.

There are also plans to bring a dedicated BLKFAM-branded hub to TAC’s streaming platform, Demand Africa, this year. It will include a curated selection of BLKFAM shows, including from previously announced BLKFAM content partners such as PlayWatch Kids and Candle Media's ATTN. Demand Africa is available on-demand and through linear streaming platforms including on iOS, Android, AppleTV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV, among others.

“BLKFAM is filling a vital need for Black families who deserve a platform through which they can see themselves and their culture reflected through wonderful programming that is curated for family viewing.  Partnering with TAC presents a brand-safe environment that is truly inclusive of global Black and African culture, and this partnership will contribute to the diversification of content available to American viewers,” said Larry Adams, founder and CEO of BLKFAM, in a statement.

And the content partnership is swinging both ways, with content from TAC joining the BLKFAM AVOD service across the web, mobile and CTV apps. Branded as “TAC on BLKFAM,” the additions will feature family-friendly and educational content from the TAC library, including titles such as "Africa on a Plate," "Care for Color," "Finding Samuel Lowe," and others. 

The Africa Channel COO Narendra Reddy told StreamTV Insider, “What I love about BLKFAM and Larry's vision is the desire to fill a void that exists in the streaming universe when it comes to entertainment content specifically targeting Black families and appropriate for multi-generational co-viewing.”

“To augment the available programming for Black families from the U.S., we are pleased to bring Africa Channel's continually-growing library of global black and African content to the partnership,” Reddy continued. “Along with the relationships that BLKFAM has established with other partners, particularly on the animation side, and of course the support of Whoopi Goldberg, we are confident that we can collectively contribute to this gap in the marketplace."

BLKFAM FAST channel, joint ad sales plan

What’s more, the partnership involves the joint creation and launch of a free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channel for BLKFAM, which TAC will help program and manage.

The FAST channel will initially launch on TAC’s O&O Demand Africa app and then the two companies will work together to distribute o other platforms. The FAST channel will be programmed and curated with a mix of content from BLKFAM alongside TAC library content and other licensors “with a view to creating a family-friendly, brand safe lean-back experience for our viewers.”

In a statement Reddy cited utilizing the two companies’ “collective resources and expertise to develop and secure high-quality programming that resonates with audiences interested in Black family narratives.”

Reddy continued, “We were particularly interested in working with BLKFAM to connect Black American families to their African heritage, using our media platforms to promote understanding and make a lasting positive impact on the communities we serve.”

BLKFAM and TAC are also pooling their expertise and programming for a joint ad sales strategy and approach to the market for the Upfront season. A spokesperson told StreamTV Insider that TAC will take the lead with existing brands and agencies already working with the company on linear and digital platforms, while BLKFAM will take the lead on new industry partners that are specifically interested in its product.

A key aim of the companies is to serve authentic and representative programming for Black viewers and families, who research has shown are strong adopters of streaming and heavy consumers of TV, yet continue to feel misrepresented or underrepresented in mainstream media, per Nielsen research.

Earlier Horowitz Research data also found Black audiences over-index compared to the total market for both free and paid streaming services.

And the report showcased a consumer desire for Black-focused content. Amazon Prime Video and Netflix were the top SVOD services Black TV content viewers used, according to the 2023 report, but respondents also reported subscribing to a range of SVODs with more targeted content, including BET+, Black World Cinema, AllBlk, and Zeus.  And 60% of Black TV content viewers surveyed said having Black-focused content is important for their household.

“For many years, Horowitz’s data has underscored that Black audiences are among the most valuable customers when it comes to the pay TV market, and the same holds true in the streaming space,” notes Adriana Waterston, chief revenue officer and Insights & Strategy lead for Horowitz Research, in a statement regarding the report. “This is an audience hungry for content, which drives higher consumption across a wide variety of platforms and services. In today’s fragmented media ecosystem, offering a broad array of content that represents the diversity of Black experiences, lifestyles, cultures, and communities is an important way for media companies to super-serve this important audience and keep them engaged.”