Curtis Symonds, founder of HBCU Network
Former BET executive is launching a new network that will spotlight Black entertainment, sports and education.
By Brian W. Carter, Sentinel Staff Writer
Curtis Symonds, former executive vice president of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and former chief operating officer for the Washington Mystics has announced plans to launch HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Network.
He comes with a long list of accomplishments having worked in media since 1979. After working for ESPN for five years, he came to BET and worked at the network from 1988 until he retired in 2001. He has served as Executive Vice President of Affiliate Sales and Affiliate Marketing, President and Chief Operating Officer of BET Action Pay-Per-View and BET International, and Executive Vice President of BET on Jazz. Symonds tenure boosted BET’s subscriber base from 18.8 million to 65 million.
The new network will give HBCUs their own television network, anchored by college sports programming, courtesy of ESPN. HBCU network will present live athletics, a nightly wrap-up show, with the rest of the programming featuring lifestyle content and “edutainment” programming, a combination of education and entertainment programming.
“What motivated me was that fact that, there was a lack of exposure for HBCU schools on television,” said Symonds. ” I just feel that, the African-American athletes today are not getting the proper exposure I think they deserve and that’s one of the reasons I was motivated to give these schools more exposure.”
“What’s the relationship between HBCU and UNCF (United Negro College Fund)?” Symonds was asked.
His associate, Meta Williams responded, “UNCF represents the 39 private HBCUs; there are 39 private institutions that are in the members institutions of UNCF. Another institution call the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund and they are the scholarship organization for the public HBCUs.
There are 105 historically Black colleges and universities within the U.S. Most of the HBCUs were established after the civil war and many were in former slave states. The Morrill Act of 1890 and later the Higher Education Act of 1965, both help establish institutions that have helped African-Americans seek a higher education.
“Black universities, HBCU’s, are known to be universities that are very, very nurturing,” said Symonds. “What people are beginning to see now, and what I think this network will spotlight more, is the equal, if not, superior quality of these universities.”
ESPN has entered into a programming agreement with the HBCU Network as they own the rights to games from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Symonds hopes for the debut of the new network will happen sometime later this year. “I hoping we will have it by September of this year,” said Symonds. “That’s the goal, to have that to put the switch on right after the Laker game.”
“This is history, this channel is history right here,” said Symonds.
As part of his informational tour in gathering support and spreading the word about the HBCU Network, Symonds presented the keynote address at the 22nd annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast, hosted by the Los Angeles Inter Alumni Council (IAC) of UNCF-Los Angeles.
According to Symonds, if all goes as planned, the NBCU Network should debut September 2011.