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HBCU Network scraps cable goes digital

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 4/12/2012, 2:45 p.m.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities

The highly anticipated debut of a television network dedicated to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) is now making its debut on the Internet. Former ESPN and BET executive Curtis Symonds, the man behind the network, realized that jumping on the digital market bandwagon was the way to go.

Set to debut in September, the digital network will carry the same intended programming about HBCUs, sporting events, "edutainment" and historical shows. Symonds, a graduate of the HBCU Central State University in Ohio, said that the network's reach will be infinite online. The digital network's target market will be African-Americans ages 15 to 24.

"We wanted to have a network that provides the history and legacy of HBCUs and what they stand for," he said. "I know for a fact that people are uneducated about HBCUs. As we begin to tell our story, the network will make it visual."

The site is preparing to roll out a new blog about the network's content to get people talking. Symonds said Microsoft is playing a role in the setup of the online network. Notably, the digital network will carry sporting events from major HBCU athletic conferences as well as independent schools. While football games are a staple among HBCU sports programs, Symonds plans on carrying other sports such as baseball and track and field.

The network, Symonds said, will also provide current HBCU students and alums a chance to help in the creation of programming. He's currently completing his work on getting funding for the HBCU Network.

"We would love to hire HBCU graduates and that's one of the things I'm big on," he said. "I want to put people around my network and offer students the chance to create programs."

One of the things that Symonds wants to do is create a news bill at each of the nation's 105 HBCUs to provide a news service that reports about various schools.

As the HBCU Network takes off online this fall, Symonds said he's not abandoning the idea of bringing the network to televisions across the country. "The HBCU Network will one day be on cable, but the way technology is going to pass the cable TV world, we will be on," he said.