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Magic Johnson’s “Aspire” Network Signs Three Exclusive Sponsors, Room for More

Published on April 26, 2012

Aspire, the cable start-up launched by basketball player NBA Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson, has signed the Chrysler Group, L’Oreal USA and Nationwide Insurance as sponsors, report the New York Times and Multichannel News.

The three advertisers will enjoy exclusivity on Aspire through 2013 in their verticals (domestic autos, beauty products and insurance), plus value-adds like having Johnson appear at company events. But there is plenty of room left in other verticals. Mary Jeanne Cavanagh, executive vice president for ad sales in the New York office of GMC TV told the Times she expects to complete $10 million+ by the june launch, in categories including beverages, distilled spirits, fast food, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications.

Aspire will launch on June 27, and is one of four new minority-owned independent networks to be distributed on Comcast Cable systems between April 2012 and January 2014. Another is Revolt, led by Sean "Diddy" Combs, and El Rey, led by director Robert Rodriguez ("From Dusk til Dawn," "Desperado"). These launches partly fulfill a commitment that Comcast to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in connection with its early 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal.  Comcast entertained more than 100 proposals before selecting the four nets, two of which are majority African-American owned and two that are majority American Hispanic owned and operated and programmed in English.

Aspire is spearheaded by Johnson, in partnership with GMC TV (formerly the Gospel Music Channel). Johnson emphasizes Aspire’s positive messaging—no true crime, dating disasters or cutthroat competition shows. “Aspire will be a network that encourages and challenges African-Americans to reach for their dreams and will appeal to all generations,” said Johnson. Aspire will deliver what Comcast calls “inspiring and positive programming” including movies, documentaries, short films, music, comedy, visual and performing arts, and faith and inspirational programs.

As the Times describes, Aspire will go head-to-head for black audiences, with BET, Black Heritage Network and Centric, among others.