Magic Johnson talked about a number of topics during his 25-minute chat Monday with Tavis Smiley, but perhaps most interesting to Variety readers were his comments comparing Aspire, the cable network he is aiming to launch by June 30, to Oprah Winfrey's efforts with OWN.
Smiley: If she’d known that establishing a network would be this hard she might not have done it and done something different. I’ll let people go online and read the transcript; I’m just paraphrasing. But she opened up today about the difficulty of trying to get a network off the ground.
Now, this is Oprah Winfrey. Now, Magic Johnson ain’t no slouch, but when Oprah is laying out how difficult this was and the mistakes that she made and the challenges in making this happen, you take anything from that?
Johnson: Oh, no question about it, because that’s Oprah and that’s billions of dollars she’s worth and has, and Magic don’t have that type of capital. When you think about spending $400 million and having gotten it right, I can’t afford to spend $400 million.
So I understand everything that she’s talking about. I hope that our group and myself have learned from her mistakes. I’m targeted, though, and probably I think that’s the difference. I’m going just after African Americans. I’m going after African American families. It’s going to be a family network where we try to bring the families back watching TV.
We’re targeted that way, we understand that and I’m going for the 30 and over because BET already have the young people and TV One is a little older than them, and then I’m going older than them. So I think that we know who we’re going after. We’re going to try to hit that person who will be watching, that professional, that mom, that dad, and hopefully have their kids around watching our network.
Smiley: Can three survive?
Johnson:Three can survive.
Johnson: Yeah, because it’s different on what we’re bringing to the table. Because Bob Johnson did a wonderful job of starting BET and I think that when you look at BET, we know who they are and they do a fine job. Cathy Hughes has done a great job with TV One, and Alfred running it.
Then I think there’s room for one more, and we’ll hit the numbers and be able to provide positive content to the people. I’m hoping that Oprah gets it right, because I cheer for Oprah, because she’s an important woman but an important African American woman.
So we want her to be successful, but I think Aspire, we’ve already hit a lot of great sponsors. It was tough in the beginning but L’Oreal came in and Chrysler has come in, so we’re getting sponsors to advertise on our network and so we’re hitting a lot of good numbers there. We’ll launch probably about June 30th to July 1st. ...