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Industry News: BET Founder Robert Johnson Launches Urban Movie Channel, an IROKO TV Like Platform

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Bob Johnson Urban Movie ChannelI can’t believe there is something Nigerians/Africans beat Americans to. BET Founder Robert Johnson launches his latest project, The Urban Movie Channel a Video on Demand platform, that resembles that of Nigeria’s IROKO TV conceptually and in execution. I can’t believe no one thought about this a long time ago for Black Hollywood.

Speaking of IROKO, it’s been very interesting to see CEO Jason Njoku expand his largely focused Nollywoood movie platform to now include a rather large catalogue of Bollywood and Hollywood movies. While the front page of IROKOtv website appear to still focus on Nollywood films, the Hollywood movies seem to drown the Nollywood ones, at least in terms of IROKO’s marketing and advertising, these days.

What’s also interesting is to see IROKO TV enlist decal services on buses around Lagos that seem to only amplify the Western movies it now sells/streams. Is the conclusion therefore that relying only on Nollywood movies, despite all of the millions of views generated on IROKO’s digital platforms and its subscription model, is simply not a sustainable model? I mean there is over $8million dollars in seed funding to account for to investors.

How is what IROKO TV now  doing different from Silverbird Cinema or any content provider who have largely fed Africans very large servings of Western and Bollywood film diets?

I invited Jason on to the Africa Music Law show. Scheduling issues has prevented us from making it happen but I look forward to having the above discussion and more  in 2015.

-Uduak

In the meantime, catch up with Bob Johnson’s latest move.

“SILVER SPRING, Md., Nov. 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — RLJ Entertainment, Inc., (NASDAQ: RLJE), created by Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and The RLJ Companies and Chairman of RLJ Entertainment, today announced the launch of UMC – Urban Movie Channel (“UMC”), RLJE’s proprietary digital channel. UMC will feature urban-themed movies as an alternative to conventional subscription-based channels by showcasing the best drama, documentaries, comedies, horror, and stage plays.

Commenting on UMC’s launch, Robert Johnson said, “As founder of BET, I have gained a deep understanding and knowledge about the African American and urban consumer and the entertainment content that appeals to them. UMC was designed so that the African American and urban creative community could directly reach consumers in a way that removes many of the restrictions associated with the legacy content development and distribution models. As more video is consumed over broadband, we believe that we can quickly become the preeminent provider of quality urban entertainment to what has largely been an underserved, yet highly engaged audience. I am convinced that urban consumers will gravitate to the economic and entertainment value proposition of UMC and that the creative community will embrace UMC as the best way to reach their loyal fans and benefit financially from showcasing their outstanding work product.”

Programs previously released by RLJE under the One Village brand will be incorporated into UMC’s library, which will also include titles from RLJE’s existing Image independent feature film line. UMC will launch with a free trial period for subscribers through February 4, 2015 and with a suggested retail price of $4.99/month or $49.99/year thereafter, but with a special limited time introductory pricing of $2.99/month or $29.99/year to start.

Miguel Penella, CEO of RLJE stated, “As one of the largest independent distributors of entertainment content with nascent propriety streaming channels like Acorn TV, we are uniquely positioned to fulfill the vision of our chairman and deliver to the urban audience an unprecedented library of high quality video content. We are confident in RLJE’s ability to acquire, distribute, and monetize existing and original content that will appeal to the urban community across the growing number of distribution platforms.”

Among the titles launching are live stand-up performances featuring Kevin Hart, Jamie Foxx, and Charlie Murphy; documentaries Dark Girls and I Ain’t Scared of You: A Tribute to Bernie Mac; the feature films All Things Fall Apart starring 50 Cent, Mario Van Peebles, and Ray Liotta; and The Suspect starring Mekhi Phifer. Bestsellers include the stage play production of What My Husband Doesn’t Know by David E. Talbert. UMC can be found at: www.urbanmoviechannel.com.

Traci Otey Blunt joins RLJE as Corporate Executive Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Affairs and will oversee the company’s marketing, public relations and investor relations, as well as the promotion of the UMC channel. For the last six years, Traci served as Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at The RLJ Companies, the holding company which formed RLJ Entertainment. Prior to RLJ, Traci served as a national deputy communications director and director of African American media for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign.

“Traci has been with The RLJ Companies since 2008 and has been responsible for all corporate communications, public relations and government affairs,” said Johnson. “She has proven to be an invaluable executive in promoting and executing the business goals and objectives of The RLJ Companies and its portfolio companies, and I believe appointing her to RLJE as Corporate EVP to perform these functions, as well as focus heavily on the marketing and promotion of UMC is an ideal fit.”

“I am confident that with Traci joining the RLJE management team, her expertise will be beneficial to the company as a whole and help our strategic launch of UMC,” said Penella. “She will promote the channel and grow its subscriber base by building new and cultivating existing relationships which will ultimately have a strong impact on RLJE’s digital platforms,” he concluded.

RLJ Entertainment is a leading creator, owner and distributor of media content across digital, broadcast and physical platforms. The Company leverages its branding expertise, access to content and direct to consumer skills to optimize the value of its programs for distinct audiences.

RLJ Entertainment is focused on driving growth through the development of interest-based entertainment services for targeted audiences in niche genres including British television, urban, action/thriller, horror, comedy, and fitness, by using new technologies to deliver that content to consumers.

RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) is a premier independent owner, developer, licensee and distributor of entertainment content and programming in primarily North America, the United Kingdom and Australia. RLJE is a leader in numerous genres via its owned and distributed brands such as Acorn (British TV), Image (feature films, stand-up comedy), UMC (urban), Acacia (fitness), Athena (documentaries), and Madacy (gift sets). These titles are distributed in multiple formats including broadcast television (including satellite and cable), theatrical and non-theatrical, DVD, Blu-Ray, digital download, and digital streaming.

Via its relationship with Agatha Christie Limited, a company that RLJE owns 64% of, RLJE manages the intellectual property and publishing rights to some of the greatest works of mystery fiction, including stories of the iconic sleuths Miss Marple and Poirot. RLJE also owns all rights to the hit UK mystery series Foyle’s War.

RLJE leverages its management experience to acquire, distribute and monetize existing and original content for its many distribution channels, including its branded digital subscription channels, Acorn TV and Acacia TV, and engages distinct audiences with programming that appeals directly to their unique viewing interests. Through its proprietary e-commerce web sites and print catalogs for the Acorn and Acacia brands, RLJE has direct contacts and billing relationships with millions of consumers.

UMC – Urban Movie Channel is a premium subscription-based streaming service exclusive to RLJ Entertainment, Inc., and is devoted to the development, production, and acquisition of feature films, comedy specials, stage plays, documentaries, music, and entertainment for the African American and urban audience. Launched initially in 2007 as One Village Entertainment, UMC titles are distributed across multiple platforms that range from theatrical, broadcast, Blu-ray™/DVD, digital streaming and downloading and features may be watched online or from any mobile device. www.urbanmoviechannel.com

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law website and podcast show empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

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ABOUT THE FOUNDER

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at https://msuduak.com.

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