×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Strictly Business Podcast: Byron Allen Expands in TV and Film, Fights for ‘Economic Inclusion’

Byron Allen is on a mission to expand his Entertainment Studios banner as he rides the boom in demand for original content. He also has a purpose in pursuing a controversial legal strategy in what he describes as an effort to right historic wrongs and open doors at the largest MVPDs to networks owned by persons of color and women.

Welcome to “Strictly Business,” Variety‘s podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. In this week’s episode, Allen details how the company he founded in 1993 in his living room has grown rapidly during the past decade, expanding into cable programming and film distribution through his 2015 acquisition of Freestyle Releasing. He also offers a lively look at the negotiations that led to his recent $300 million acquisition of cable’s Weather Channel. When two surprise bidders emerged at the last moment to challenge the deal Allen thought he had in hand, he told the bankers driving the deal to think of him as Muhammad Ali. He had made up his mind that Weather Channel was a strategic asset for Entertainment Studios, which already has a portfolio of seven niche networks. 

“I told the bankers to tell the other guys: ‘Muhammad Ali.’ I’m gonna hit ’em so hard I’m going to knock them out of the ring into the cheap seats. Just like Muhammad Ali,” Allen says.

Allen, who got his start in standup comedy and comedy writing as a teenager, also takes aim at the practices of Charter Communications and Comcast in discussing his aggressive legal bid to press for “economic inclusion” rights for persons of color. He has a $20 billion claim on appeal with Comcast and a $10 billion case pending against Charter. He maintains they are violating civil rights laws by failing to do business in meaningful numbers with African-American media entrepreneurs such as himself. 

“When I dropped those lawsuits it changed the game,” Allen says. Charter, for one, has added more racial and gender diversity to a board that had been exclusively white men. Allen’s case hinges on a little-remembered law from 1866 mandating economic inclusion rights for newly freed slaves. “I took that law and put it on steroids.”

Listen to the full interview with Allen:

Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Listen to the podcast below for the full interview, or check out previous “Strictly Business” episodes featuring HBO’s Richard Plepler, Group 9’s Ben Lerer, Bankable Production’s Tyra Banks, Keshet International’s Alon Shtruzman, among others. A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

More Biz

  • Plume of black smoke rising from

    Lawsuit Expected Next Week in Response to Universal Music Fire

    A Los Angeles law firm representing several Universal Music recording artists affected by the 2008 fire that destroyed a huge number of master recordings is expected to file a lawsuit as early as next week. King told Variety that he expects to sue for negligence and other torts. He declined to identify his clients, saying [...]

  • Nicholas Sparks

    Nicholas Sparks Responds as LGBT Discrimination Claim Resurfaces

    Nicholas Sparks, the prolific author of romance novels, is facing renewed allegations that he discriminated against gay students at his Christian school in North Carolina. The allegations were first leveled by Saul Benjamin, the former headmaster of the Epiphany School of Global Studies, in a wrongful termination suit he filed in 2014. Benjamin’s suit alleged [...]

  • Tyler the Creator and DJ Khaled

    Inside the DJ Khaled-Tyler, the Creator Chart Battle

    The controversy surrounding the recent chart battle between DJ Khaled and Tyler the Creator — in which a bundle promoting Khaled’s album was disqualified from adding to its sales tally for the May 24 Billboard 200 album chart, allowing the No. 1 spot to go to Tyler’s “Igor” — has been a first-class problem for [...]

  • Cuba Gooding Jr. Diversity

    Cuba Gooding Jr. Charged with Misdemeanor Forcible Touching

    Actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., has been charged with a misdemeanor count of forcible touching following an incident at a nightclub, the New York Police Department said Thursday. Gooding turned himself in to NYPD detectives on Thursday, surrounded by a throng of media. Later in the day, he was arraigned in front of Judge Herb Moses. [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    CAA Challenges Writers Guild of America's Legal Standing in Packaging Fee Lawsuit

    CAA has challenged the Writers Guild of America’s legal standing for bringing forth the lawsuit against Hollywood’s four largest talent agencies over the issue of packaging fees. CAA’s latest legal response to the suit filed by the WGA in Los Angeles Superior Court in April asserts that the guild does not have the right to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content