CEO of Radio One, Alfred C. Liggins III, says Google Has Taken Billions of Dollars Away from Black Advertising

TV One hopes to expand NewsOne Now to “a full multihour morning show.” NEWSONE SCREENSHOT
TV One hopes to expand NewsOne Now to “a full multihour morning show.”

TV One’s hour-long NewsOne Now with Roland Martin has regained the viewers it lost with its September shift from 9 a.m. to 7 a.m. ET, Alfred C. Liggins III, president and CEO of the parent Radio One, Inc., told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

Liggins said he would like to “ultimately expand the show to a full multi-hour morning show.”

“NewsOne Now” is national television’s only live daily news show targeting African Americans. Liggins spoke after an onstage interview at the 14th Annual Access to Capital and Telcom Policy Conference in Washington, hosted by the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC).

In the interview with Kim M. Keenan, MMTC’s president and CEO, Liggins said his company “has become the poster child for minority ownership” as media companies such as Black Entertainment Television have been bought by conglomerates. Though publicly owned, Radio One, Inc. bought out its original minority partner, Comcast, earning it black-owned status.

Radio One, which Liggins said is due for a name change that reflects its broader interests, is taking more positions on issues, “standing behind candidates” and undertaking more advocacy and philanthropy.

For example, Liggins said, the company recently fulfilled a $4 million pledge it made two years ago to Howard University’s School of Communications.

Radio One isn’t in the media business, he said. “We always saw ourselves in the ‘black people business.’ ”

Much of Liggins’ talk, however, was about the threat to his and other companies posed by Internet-firms such as Google. Google has “taken billions of dollars of advertising” from traditional media, and it knows how to “seek out African Americans,” he told Journal-isms.

The CEO said he had no idea that he would have to learn so much about technology, if only to protect his business from the Internet companies. Radio One acquired Black Planet in 2008, then calling it “the premiere social-networking site for African-Americans,” but now it is one-tenth the size it once was, Liggins told Journal-isms.

Facebook has dwarfed it along with competitors such as MySpace. “Our job is to figure out how to revive it” and reinvent its role, Liggins said of Black Planet.

Radio One was founded by Liggins’ mother, Cathy Hughes, in 1980, with a single radio station, Washington’s WOL-AM, obtained under a program by the Federal Communications Commission designed to boost minority ownership.

For the quarter ending March 31, its revenue was approximately $109.1 million, though Liggins said the company is carrying a high debt. Tom Taylor Now, “radio’s daily management newsletter,” reported on April 26 that Liggins “banked over $1 million in bonus (versus none in 2014) and about $1.3 million in stock awards to sweeten his base salary of $1.25 million.”

Liggins said he was proud that 40 percent of TVOne is now original content, and that “Love Under New Management,” an “Unsung” feature film. The story of singer Miki Howard, which aired in June, was “the biggest movie we’ve ever done.”

Although Howard was not as well-known as some, her story was compelling.

“NewsOne Now” lost 36 percent of its audience when it moved from 9 a.m. to 7 a.m. ET, according to Nielsen research figures provided to Journal-isms. In April, Nielsen told Journal-isms that from January through the end of March, the show averaged 99,000 viewers, still below the average of 141,000 viewers it drew Sept. 7-11, its last week at 9 a.m. ET.

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Source: The Root | RICHARD PRINCE