Magic Johnson, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Toss Their Hats Into the Cable TV Ring

The two entertainment business moguls are both taking advantage of an offer by Comcast Corp. for minority ownership in cable programming

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REUTERS / Jeff Haynes, Mario Anzuoni

Magic Johnson, Sean "Diddy" Combs

After you’ve become an NBA legend or a world-famous hip-hop impresario where do you go from there? Magic Johnson and Sean “Diddy” Combs may have the answer.

Johnson and Combs have announced they will become two of the latest A-list celebrities to launch their own cable networks. Johnson’s Aspire network and Diddy’s REVOLT channel will target African American audiences, and both will serve as a challenge to Viacom’s cable entertainment stalwarts MTV and BET in doing it. Both are taking advantage of Comcast Corp.’s agreement with the FCC and the U.S. Justice Department to bring more ownership diversity in terms of the channels it carries. The company pledged last year to debut 10 new independently-owned channels, with several owned by minorities.

Aspire will be a 24-hour channel that includes both acquired and original programming, launching June 30, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. Johnson says it will be a vehicle for more positive images for African American producers and performers. He has already become a huge figure in the entertainment business landscape with investments in the 17-station Inner City Broadcasting radio company and as chairman of Vibe Holdings. Once he learned Comcast was taking proposals, he quickly jumped in. “We wanted to be the first one,” he told the Times.

Meanwhile Combs, who made his fortune with Bad Boy Entertainment over much of the past two decades, is calling REVOLT “a new venture to create a real-time, socially connected music television network,” according to a statement released Tuesday. Combs’ network will launch between July 2012 and January 2014 and use social media as a tool to buttress viewership he says. On a YouTube video he released in conjunction with his announcement, Combs challenged other media companies “to come and get down with the get down” in doing the same as Comcast.

Both Johnson and Combs follow Oprah Winfrey in her attempt to translate her own entertainment media success into cable gold with her OWN Network, which launched in 2011. But that channel has had trouble attracting very large audiences for its programming. Johnson says, however, his company is learning from its predecessor. ” We understand the landscape, and we will run a sound business.”

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