Note: This is a transcript of HBCU Pulse Founder and HBCU Pulse Radio on SiriusXM host Randall Barnes’s interview with WURD’s Charles Ellison and the subsequent podcast episode recapping it. Listen to the interview below or on HBCU Pulse YouTube.
What’s going on, everybody? This is Randall Barnes, the founder of HBCU Pulse and the host of HBCU Pulse Radio in the building for another special edition of the show on today where, man, I’m not even going to lie, man. I’m having a Jordan flu game right now. I don’t think I have the flu, but as I’m talking right now, I am sick. So if I sound crazy, please forgive me. If I don’t sound as energetic as I normally am, please forgive me.
But I had to hop on and talk today. I’m supposed to be on break. But it didn’t work out like that because Ed Reed is now the coach of Bethune-Cookman. He’s doing amazing things down there. He’s a football savant. He was at the University of Miami as the chief of staff. And of course, with that, he has administrative experience. So, I hopped back on Twitter. I’m supposed to be on a social media fast. I’ve broken it a couple of times just because of what’s been going on. And, as I was on Twitter at three in the morning because I couldn’t go to sleep, I saw that there was a conversation about BET airing HBCU football games again by folks that I respect. And it doesn’t make sense that we continue to try to get BET to air HBCU games when they don’t want to. That is not what they’re trying to do with their product.
When we’re talking media, y’all have to make the money make sense in your ideas. Linear TV is dying. The plan is to use that to our advantage by touting our viewership #’s to CBS/ABC/NBC/Fox to get more games on TV,
BET isn’t an option guys, this isn’t 1993 or 2003.
— Randall Barnes (@AuthorRandallB) December 28, 2022
They’re a lifestyle brand, and they’re trying to acquire and produce and create reality TV programs and also scripted TV programs to primarily appeal to black women ages 18 to 34 and also 18 to 49. They’re trying to go for a younger demographic. So sports does not fit in to that at all to be 100% honest with you. So I did a thread where I talked about why that doesn’t make sense, why we shouldn’t be looking at BT to give our sports right to and why we should have a better conversation with Amazon Prime, sort of have conversations with them, have a better conversation with ESPN, and then include in NBC and CBS and Fox Sports and Apple TV+ And you have, of course, Amazon Prime Video. We should be including them in this as well. That’s all I’m saying. You know what I’m saying? So I did a thread on that.
I had Mr. Charles Ellison, who is a radio host for WURD, the only black owned radio station in Philadelphia reach out. He hosts Reality Check from 10:00 A.m to 01:00. P.m. Weekdays, and he invited me on the show. It was the last minute. But I love radio, and WURD is dope! I’ve listened to them many times before. So I hopped at the opportunity, even while I was sick, to come on and talk about HBCU sports media rights. So this is my conversation with Mr. Charles Ellison. Hopefully, I represented well for the HBCU community and shed some light about what was going on and also how we can really get more out of these HBCU sports media contracts. So make sure to stay tuned. You listen to HBCU Pulse Radio. Here’s my interview on Reality Check with Charles Ellison.
Charles Ellison: Progressive black talk media on air, [email protected], that’s throughout the nation, throughout the world. You’re tuning in. You’re listening in at Word radio. Also watching us on Word TV. Your Word app on Philadelphia radio. We’re 96.1 FM 900 a m. I’m Charles Ellison, still on Twitter at Ellison Report. Also on LinkedIn as well. Joining us now is Randall Barnes. He is the founder CEO of HBCU Pulse, an online magazine that follows the historically black college and university community. So go to hbcupulse.com. He just started a new program on SiriusXM satellite radio, if I’m not mistaken, in the same name, HBCU Pulse. Is that correct? Randall, congratulations on that, because I think that just started recently, your HBCU Pulse program on SiriusXM, is that correct?
Randall: Yes, sir. So HBCU Pulse radio is on SiriusXM Channel 142 HBCU, and it’s going to start on January 6th at 5 PM and every Friday at 5 PM EST/4 PM CST after that. So I’m super excited for that.
Charles Ellison: That’s what’s up. Okay. Yeah. Congratulations. Yeah, @authorrandallb on Twitter, on social media and @thehbcupulse as well. So I noticed you were sharing some thoughts about HBCU sports on what you call linear TV. Some people call it mainstream. I don’t like to use the word mainstream because I think that, like, black media, like ours, like WURD, that’s mainstream. But I like the way you describe it, linear TV. Basically, there’s a big debate going on about whether or not HBCU sports, like football and HBCU football is growing, should be aired or should be exclusively, almost should be shifting more towards channels like ESPN, CBS, NBC, other major linear TV sports channels. Talk about that. How big is that debate?
Randall: It’s a huge debate because we’re in a society where streaming is the new normal. And now because of streaming, because of the Internet and social media, normal folks are able to get into the business and have a voice. And the streaming apparatus is not fully formed yet. It’s not fully ready to take over the traditional dominance of TV and radio. But it’s a great time for us to get into it. So, for me, I saw a lot of amazing people that I respect talk about BET once again. It’s happened almost every few months about BET getting HBC sports, and it’s not going to happen. And I work in media now. I have a radio show on SiriusXM, I worked as an account executive selling advertising for a radio station. And I love media. I study media. I’m up at 3 AM reading about it and tweeting about it. That’s why I tweeted about it. So, like, it just doesn’t make sense to say, “hey, BET, get sports” when BET is geared towards black women ages 18 to 49. It just simply doesn’t make sense when sports is a predominantly male product. So you want to put it on ESPN, you want to engage NBC Sports or Fox Sports or CBS Sports about it, because that’s where sports fans are. And I wanted to explain that because we have to have real conversations about our media rights and where we can go, because it’s a great conversation. It’s a great conversation, and it’s a lot of good faith arguments, and folks have their hearts in the right place, but we have to talk about things productively, and we have to be realistic.
Charles Ellison: Yeah, we have to be realistic. That conversation does come up because, I guess the ideal situation, I guess in a perfect world, we could say, right, Randall, to have black football games on black oriented TV or black oriented cable seems like the perfect fit, just culturally and just visually right. But BET is not black owned anymore. That’s the thing that people forget. I think that as we’re having this conversation, because I’m like you, I see it popping up occasionally as well. And when I notice as I look at the depths of it. I think people forget or they don’t know. Bet is not black owned anymore. It’s straight up a white owned channel, just black oriented or maybe trying to get it with other channels. But we’re also trying to, right Randall, speak to that. There’s some great things that happen in HBCU football. You have some great talent coming out of HBCU football and other HBCUs sports programs that actually go to the pros, the professional leagues. So you want as much exposure as possible. You want to start viewing HBCUs also as not just black colleges, but as part of the broader mainstream community of colleges.
Randall: Exactly. And it’s so crazy because on Christmas, which is my birthday, I want to say that Christmas is my birthday. I announced the radio for my birthday. But the Decobie Durant had a great game versus a Hall-of-Fame quarterback in Russell Wilson. He went to South Carolina State and he was a part of that team that beat Deion Sanders and Jackson State in the Celebration Bowl. There’s so much talent at HBCUs on the Division I and Division II level. You have Joshua Williams that plays for the Chiefs. He went to Fayetteville State University. So there’s so many amazing players and such great football that happens at HBCUs. And all we want as an HBCUs community is to have America and the world see that and we want a part of that media pie. So the BET conversation and having other stations, we say Aspire TV, we say Bounce TV, we say TV One. It’s a good faith argument, but we have to make it make sense because we want a piece of the money pie. We don’t want to be messed over as far as our media rights and also want to make sure that the Decobie Durant’s and the Joshua Williams’s, we want to make sure that they get seen and they get drafted. And that’s what we want to do with our media rights.
Charles Ellison: Right. How much money stands to be made? How much money are we talking about at stake here?
Randall: Honestly, we’re talking about hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, because we have to look at. It at face value. We know that the FCS is, as far as viewership, a bit of a step down from the FBS. We know that. I don’t believe that the play is as big of a step down, but we’re looking at hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in media rights that we can get if we just have the right conversations with the right people and use data and numbers that support that. The Celebration Bowl got 2.4 million viewers a couple of Saturdays ago, and that’s amazing. And that wasn’t even the highest viewed. Celebration bowl 2016 was. Grambling & North Carolina Central when North Carolina lost the game 10-9 on a blocked field goal kick. That got 2.7 million views. So we have these numbers to command. Now is the time to say, hey, we see you all want content. We see that it’s a huge swath of sports consumers that are moving to streaming and they’re cutting the cord. So now is the time to say, hey. 2 million viewers on ABC. We had over 700,000 viewers for the Bayou Classic that was back on basic cable. NBC, can we get another game in? Can we get Jackson State/Alcorn? Can we get the Florida Classic with the Bethune-Cookman with Ed Reed now and FAMU? Can we get that on ABC or NBC or Fox Sports? We have to have the conversations based on the numbers that we do have because there are players in the industry that have been working with us and have been airing our games even this year. So we have to just make it make sense in that way and have productive conversations that can help us out.
Charles Ellison: So with those numbers and, just educate me here, right? Are there HBCUs games, like, for example, HBCU football games that get more viewers than some of those so called mainstream or linear TV games or games between predominantly white institutions routinely?
Randall: Let’s talk about the Orange Blossom Classic this year. That featured Travis Hunter’s first game at Deion Sanders second Orange Blossom Classic against FAMU that almost got a million views on ESPN. 958,000 viewers on that Sunday game. A game on a Sunday that was like so, like, there’s people that are watching and we just have to put HBCU football in the right lane to number one, have it seen to get visibility, to get sponsorship and ad dollars, but also to have our athletes spotlighted aand our institution spotlighted our culture and history. There were about ten to twelve HBCU games out on TV this year. The Bayou Class was on basic cable, NBC, and when I say NBC, I mean like basic cable, like NBC, like Channel Four on some places, not like BET Channel 35 here in middle Georgia. But of course you have the Bayou Classic and you have the Celebration Bowl. That’s only two games on network television, but there were more of that one cable. You saw games on CNBC, you saw a game on NFL Network, you saw games on ESPNU, ESPN2 and ESPN. So we have games that are on cable, but we want more. And honestly, there’s no reason why, and we have to engage other suitors. Why don’t we engage Fox Sports? Have a game on Fox Sports 1. Why don’t we engage Amazon Prime? They’re trying to create a standalone app where now their sports are going to be a standalone app. So why can’t we engage them for that? I think that these are the conversations that need to happen.
Charles Ellison: Yeah. Amazon prime. YouTube also getting in on the NFL act, right? YouTube going to be like? YouTube TV streaming NFL games? Let me ask you, so what do you mean? You did say that, and you said that you hit at it earlier, and you said that on a thread you did on Twitter this morning. And that’s why I reached out to you and said, you know, I got to talk to his brother about this. What do you mean when you say we need to make sure we’re making sense in our media rights conversations. What does that mean exactly?
Randall: So when I say make it make sense, I mean this, right? So, I want us to make sense as far as who we’re talking to. BET has no interest in airing HBCU football. BETT is owned by ViacomCBS. CBS might be a little bit interested, maybe a CBS Sports situation, maybe having a game or two on CBS. They might be interested If we present the right package, we come in with a realistic number in our head and say, hey, these are our best games. Which one do you want? We can have those conversations. But BET is not a realistic destination. They’re not trying to get HBCU football. They’re trying to invest in scripted and reality content. They are a lifestyle network. So. College Hill, for example. They brought back College Hill. It was at Texas Southern, now is going to be at Alabama State. It got a bunch of viewers, 800,000 viewers, when they premiered the first two episodes after the BET Awards this year. They’ll invest in that. Maybe we can try to get the “Why Not Us” series maybe syndicated on BET if Disney is cool with that. That’s a better conversation. That’s a realistic conversation because “Why Not Us: Southern Dance” is a lifestyle show. It’s athletics but, at the same time, it’s lifestyle. That’s a more realistic conversation than BET. Like putting in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to produce a quality HBCU football game broadcast every week, paying commentators, paying camera people and the whole entire nine yards. That’s resources. And then even if you look at certain games, like you’ll see, for example, you have the Fox game, they had the Eagles versus the Cowboys, and they were promoting hey, Skip and Shannon: Undisputed that’s a Fox Sports property that connects perfectly with Cowboys fans because Skip Bayless is a Cowboy fan. So I’m promoting that on the channel. What am I going to promote during an HBCU football game that a swap of men want to watch maybe College Hill, you know what I’m saying? So it doesn’t even make sense as far as the product tie in. It just simply doesn’t make sense. So I want us to have conversations that make sense in the way of, hey, this realistically can happen. This isn’t me dreaming. This isn’t a fantasy. This isn’t me being stuck in 1993 or 2000. This is me having a conversation rooted in 2023 and beyond.
Charles Ellison: Yeah. What are the risks here? Right? So if HBCU games and I know that that part of the conversation comes up and we have to address it, it’s like black people in speaking of, like, having a conversation back in the 90s, remember the 80’s and 90’s when hip hop was coming into suddenly becoming more mainstream. And you have all these artists, even to this day, people look back and they’re like all these artists, even to this day, taken advantage of by the industry. So what are the risks? What are sort of the pitfalls that HBCUs as institutions have to look out for so they’re not taking advantage of so they’re able to maximize as much of the revenue generation as possible because these are going to be very complex, sophisticated conversations and negotiations that they’re going to engage in with these major corporate and frankly, just white dominated, white owned sports channels that are looking to make a dollar. And they also are going to look at, okay, well, just like they do with black athletes, how can we take advantage of them? So what are some pitfalls or some red flags that HBCUs as institutions need to look out for?
Randall: That’s an amazing question because there are honestly only a few, because the risk is us not doing it. But one of the risks, and you brought it up and use the music industry as a perfect example, is not valuing ourselves and getting in bad deals. That’s really the problem that we’ll run into because we want validation from outside of our community. That’s really where a lot of these conversations about HBCU Usports and other folks seeing our content: we want validation outside of ourselves. And that is the problem. What I want in these conversations is for more black folks that might not be fans of HBCU football or they might not know about HBCU football like me or other HBCU alumni. They might learn about Eddie Robinson. They might learn about Jerry Rice. They might learn about the success of Bethune Cookman’s football program before Ed Reed got there, or learn about Fort Valley and the Doug Porter years and Rayfield Wright. We want to have that exposure to other fans that have similar interests to us. But a lot of the conversations devolve to clout and attention, but also validation from other communities that really don’t care about what we have going on until it gets hot. Now they want to watch it. So we rush into these rooms and say, hey, anything, just put us on TV. We want millions of people, Just, whatever. Just put any clause in. You own all the content XYZ. And then now we’re like, “Oh, wait a minute. What happened? I just missed over a billion dollars. I signed for $5 a game.” That becomes the problem. And that’s happened historically. Now there’s a value in HBCU football. Now you have more competitors because streaming is now competitive. Now you have Apple and Amazon Prime that are competitors so we can command more money and also more stuff from these companies to where they can help us in promoting the product. So that’s what I’m afraid of. I want us to go in with tact and strategy, because if we go in with tact and strategy and be prepared to get up and walk out and they say, wait, now we’ll do it. We’ll do it for this number. Now we’re ready, because we’re not desperate. Always say this. HBCUs aren’t the slums. We can command more.
Charles Ellison: That’s right. All right. Randall Barnes is founder, also CEO, publisher of HBCU Pulse. Go to hbcupulse.com for more information, more content there. Also now HBCU Pulse Radio on SiriusXM that starts up on January 6, right? January 6. So check that outl. What was that channel again?
Randall: Channel 142 HBCU. It’s operated by Howard University in partnership with SiriusXM. So I’m super excited for that, and I appreciate Howard University!
Charles Ellison: Excellent, brother. We got to bring you back, so I hope we can have you back so to continue these conversations. Absolutely. I really appreciate that and on such short notice. I appreciate that, Randall. I appreciate the energy as well. A lot to unpack there. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, and I got a bunch of other questions, but I can ask you later. Randall Barnes at @authorrandallb on Twitter, on social media, but more importantly, go to @thehbcupulse, hbcupulse.com. Randall, thanks so much. Happy holidays to you.
Randall: Thank you so much.
Charles Ellison: Be safe, brother. Thanks again. All right, let’s take a break. We’ll be right back with more Reality Check here on WURD.
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