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Africa web sets launch

Digital net set for Bayou bow

The article was updated on July 18, 2005.

NEW YORK — Proposed digital-cable network the Africa Channel has drummed up deals with Cox Cable systems in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which will trigger the net’s official launch Sept. 1.

“We think U.S. viewers, both whites and blacks, will plug in to the culture, music and sounds of Africa,” said Jacob Arback, president of the channel and one of its founders along with CEO James Makawa and Richard E. Hammer, exec VP of communications.

Arback said he and his partners have collected just under $10 million in their first round of financing cobbled together from private investors. Net will get programming advice from Los Angeles-based Weller/Grossman Prods. and advice on distributors and corporate sponsorships from Andrew Young’s Goodworks Intl.

Headquartered in North Hollywood, the network has already amassed more than 1,200 hours of English-language programming produced in various African countries, most of which will appear in the U.S. for the first time.

Content includes telepics, soap operas, comedies, travel shows, concerts, biographies and a program called “Africa Business Tonight.” News and information will also be part of the mix, led by “60-Minutes”-type newsmagazine “Carte Blanche.”

Africa Channel will harvest most of its revenues from advertising, so the network will need fast subscriber growth in cable and satellite.

As is typical of most new digital nets, Africa Channel’s other revenue stream will be modest: Cable operators and satellite distributors will get it free for a year or two and then pay a small monthly license fee of a few cents per subscriber.

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