When Ousman Sahko Sow and Akin founded Adebowale Black day In 2019 they wanted to answer two questions: What would a streaming platform for a digitally savvy black audience look like? And how could it become a target for black talent?
It turns out that both answers have a lot to do with pay.
“What we are building addresses the exploitative nature of the monetization of black creativity and instead finds a way to get it back into the hands of creators in a sustainable manner by paying them the value they are worth,” said Mr Sow, Jan. ). in a recent interview.
Over the past few years, the creators of Black have made several efforts to shine a light on the Inequalities they face when it comes to finding opportunities and getting paid for their work. Brands spent around $ 10 billion on influencer marketing in 2020 Signal fire, a venture capital firm pursuing the creators’ economy. but white creators make significantly more money than their black counterparts, Who tend to get significantly less credit.
With that in mind, Blacktag, which made its official debut last week, intends to create a product modeled on YouTube and Netflix with a mix of produced shows that include music, travel and more. licensed short films; and original videos from creators. The goal is to become a target for brands that want to partner with black creators and attract a black audience.
Some of the app’s content can be viewed on demand at any time, but much of it is only available live – a look back at the era of the appointment display. “It’s like the old days when we gathered to see something that aired at 9pm,” said Mr. Adebowale, 33. “We want a community experience and an antidote to the endless stream of content.” Founders said there will never be an algorithm that decides what users see.
To appeal to the creators, the company plans to share intellectual property rights on series and specials with them in hopes of licensing their videos at outlets like Netflix and HBO. (This is unusual since most social media and entertainment companies own 100 percent of the creator’s content.) The founders are also investigating paid subscriptions; YouTubers would receive a revenue cut based on their viewership and engagement.
The company’s goal is to get a mix of original broadcasts, licensed films and content from the creators, not just in the United States but across the black diaspora, whether in London, Nigeria or Brazil.
Prior to developing the app, Mr. Sow was a commercial film director whose clients included Adidas, Spotify, and Google. Mr. Adebowale was the creative director, composer, and software engineer; he has worked with Drake, Kanye West, and Jill Scott and has mentored Bob Johnson, a founder of BET. Both were born in West Africa and grew up in the Atlanta area, but didn’t meet until 2019 when they were introduced by mutual friends.
Blacktag currently has 13 employees based out of the company’s headquarters in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City, and 10 original shows and a handful of short films. The first week’s line-up includes originals such as “Black Atlas,” a weekly travel series targeting local filmmakers to document black life around the world.
Other shows include “MGMT,” a mini-documentary series that portrays veterans of the black music industry; one episode shows Sean Famoso from LVRN Records. And later this month Blacktag will present “Superimpose,” a musical performance series (the first featuring rapper Kari Faux) and “What’s Your Sign?” a celebrity talk show where guests like designer Brandon Blackwood chat about astrological natal charts and tarot cards.
Video content can only be one minute long, which is roughly the length of “Hot Intermissions”. comical parodies of the traditional commercial break or as long as movies. The Blacktag team hopes to scale up to 24 hours of programming.
The app will also offer e-commerce: for example, if you see a pair of actor’s trainers, you can tap the shopping cart and you will be redirected to Nike’s page to buy. Other plans include collapsing brands owned by Black in relation to the topics discussed on the show, be it fashion, home decor, or even sex toys.
Commenting, another feature, will be limited to certain live events. Mr. Sow and Mr. Adebowale admit this part will be difficult: “Blacktag is more of an entertainment platform than a social network, but we know users want to share an experience so they can block users and report messages about toxic behavior reduce. ”said Mr. Adebowale.
Scheduling for your global audience poses some challenges. Racier shows such as African Sex Stories, an unfiltered discussion of sex and relationships slated for later this year, may air during what Mr. Adebowale and Mr. Sow called “Demon Time,” which is New York City late at night and early is morning in Europe.
“African Sex Stories” will feature a changing cast of presenters, with the first five episodes playing the main roles Simi moonlight, a wellness and style content creator. Blacktag plans to pair them up with other non-creator hosts, all of whom have been scouted over video submissions. The topics of discussion range from consent to the psychology and language of gender.
The team is also not afraid to highlight sensitive issues, though there is a risk of their app being banned in countries that may oppose it. “There are certain areas in West Africa where it is illegal to be gay, but people who live in these communities who feel oppressed need something to help them move on,” said Mr Sow.
The biggest question is about monetization.
Quibi, which ultimately also relied on mobile-first content failed. But Mr. Sow and Mr. Adebowale were quick to point out the differences: Quibi, they wrote in an email, “was designed for an oversupplied population with massive overproduction budgets that restart old, familiar content. We wish we could make costly mistakes like our non-black peers, but the vision Blacktag outlined meets a need expressed by the community that is long overdue and necessary. “
Blacktag was funded in part by a $ 3.75 million investment from Connect companies, a partnership between the Creative Artists Agency and New Enterprise Associates, a global venture company. Blacktag also has some high profile investors and advisors, including Issa Rae and Common. These connections have given the emerging company credibility.
“We’re looking to partner with mission-driven founders, and that’s exactly what we saw at Blacktag – two savvy and innovative entrepreneurs,” said Michael Blank, director of consumer investments at CAA. “Your vision will have a tremendous impact by giving black artists and creators opportunities to monetize their work while offering artistic freedom.”
Comparisons with black media companies like BET and Revolt TV are inevitable, but Adebowale believes in collaboration, not competition.
“How can we reinforce each other?” He said. “There are so few in this field that it’s great for all of us to be in this industry. We want to be the standard for alternative black audiences, art and artists worldwide and contribute sustainably to this community. “