Sean Combs’ Revolt TV was birthed in 2013 as a part of a media mega-merger. Comcast’s 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal was approved by federal regulators with the condition that the cable giant offer valuable real estate on its cable systems to 10 new independently owned cable channels.
Without that initial launch pad, Revolt’s linear TV and digital content business would not likely exist today. Roma Khanna, the MGM and NBCUniversal alum who has headed Revolt as CEO since 2017, said the Comcast carriage deal offered an important leg up, but only to the first rung of the ladder. Khanna is focused now on expanding the scope of Revolt beyond hip-hop music videos to encompass comedy and lifestyle programming.
On the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Khanna is candid about the challenges of running an independent outfit at a time when the pay TV marketplace is dominated by giants. The Comcast-NBCU deal provided a unique entry point for an entrepreneur such as Combs, but to seed a strong independent media company takes a lot more than carriage. Revolt still does not have full distribution even on Comcast’s cable systems, she noted.
“The idea of trying to embrace diversity and create an equal-opportunity playing field for (diverse) voices to proliferate really runs in to a problem when it’s the first step of a 100-step race,” Khanna said. “The next 99 steps also need support.”
During the wide-ranging conversation, Khanna addresses the growth strategy that she describes as “super-serving a super-niche audience” to make Revolt’s linear and digital content offerings a hub for all things hip-hop. She also reflects on getting the chance to work with a truly diverse management after years of “being the only woman or one of a small handful of women in the room, and almost exclusively the only woman of color.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.