Thursday, June 15, 2017

Financial struggles hampered Brillante’s FNC and its partnership with Black Family Channel

L-R: Bob Brillante, J.C. Watts, and Steve Southerland at FAMU SJGC
If you want to see where the headquarters of the now-defunct Florida’s News Channel (FNC) were located, just head over to the current WCTV-6 studios off Capital Circle Northeast in Tallahassee. Gray Television Inc., WCTV-6’s parent company, got a good deal on that facility and its equipment after FNC folded.

Gray Television President Bob Prather talked about the purchase during a conference on the company’s fourth-quarter 2005 earnings.

“We spent a little more in '05 than we planned, for a couple of reasons,” Prather said. “One, we had a chance to buy a new building down in Tallahassee, an existing facility. A Florida news channel went out of business, and we picked up a fantastic facility probably at 50% of its true market value. It was a fully-equipped TV facility for operating the Florida News Channel, which we basically got the equipment for nothing; it was probably $3 million worth of equipment in the facility.”

A much less detailed discussion of that sale appears in the bio that Bob Brillante, FNC founder and former managing partner (1998-2003), has on the Black Television News Channel (BTNC) webpage where he is listed as “co-manager.”

“FNC’s network facilities were sold to Gray Television in 2004 after FNC entered a lengthy court battle over the distribution of the network’s programming to Comcast subscribers throughout the State of Florida,” the bio says. “The legal dispute between FNC’s management and Comcast was settled in 2005.”

The sale-off of FNC assets came after a last-ditch effort to partner with the Black Family Channel (BFC) to start a 24-hour channel focusing news involving African Americans.

Cablefax Daily reported on that partnership’s troubles in a 2004 article entitled: “Not Dead Yet: African-American News Net Hangs On.”
“While Black Family Channel (formerly MBC) has not said anything officially, it's been clear for some time that it lacks the resources to launch the 24-hour African-American news net it touted in Feb '03. Yet the concept isn't dead necessarily. Black Family's partner in the venture, Florida News Channel is moving ahead with Black Television News Channel (BTNC), setting an aggressive July '05 launch plan, although it's still seeking financial backers. Florida News Channel itself will be defunct shortly, although its parent company still plans to launch BTNC…

“As for Florida News Channel, it's been on the road to extinction for months. Last Dec, Comcast declined to renew its contract with the regional news net; that decision left FNC with about 78K subs through overbuilder Knology, its lone carriage deal. That contract is set to expire Dec 31, and Knology's not renewing. While FNC will cease to exist at year-end, GM Frank Watson says the company will continue to provide production services in its Tallahassee studios…”
The Black Family Channel eventually made a deal with the Gospel Music Channel (now UP) in 2007. A 2007 article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that “BFC was launched with the goal of providing family-friendly entertainment, but it didn't fare well financially.”

“We have not made money,” BFC Chairman Willie Gary told the newspaper. “Absolutely not.”

On June 11, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that the planned BTNC won’t be located at the FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Communication originally as planned. BTNC had proposed $10 million for “renovating, upgrading and installing equipment in the SJGC building.”

But in a statement to WCTV-6, FAMU Interim President Larry Robinson said the university didn’t receive the information it needed to ensure that the renovation process would be in compliance with Board of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors requirements.

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