ATLANTA, June 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- ASPiRE, the new television network from Magic Johnson Enterprises, debuts today, Wednesday, June 27 at 8:00 pm EDT with a unique mix of original and groundbreaking programming aimed at African-American viewers. The network will launch with inaugural distribution partners Comcast and Time Warner Cable. At launch, ASPiRE will be available in approximately seven million homes and in 16 of the top 25 African-American markets including New York City, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, DC. ASPiRE also will launch on FAVE TV and with five charter brand partners: The Chrysler Group, L'Oreal USA, Nationwide Insurance, Coca-Cola and Walmart. ASPiRE will celebrate its historic kickoff tonight with a private, star-studded event at Cipriani Dolci in New York City.
Joining the network as hosts of its primetime programming blocks are award-winning actor Laurence Fishburne (Boyz 'n the Hood, The Matrix, School Daze, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"), who will host "Groundbreaking Movies"; actor and comedian Jonathan Slocumb (Meet the Browns, "The Steve Harvey Show"), host of "Groundbreaking Comedies"; Actor Omari Hardwick (Sparkle, I Will Follow), host of ASPiRE's first original series, "ABFF Independent"; and Grammy Award®-winning musician Esperanza Spalding, host of "Groundbreaking Music."
ASPiRE's mission is to entertain, enlighten and inspire. It will shine a light on the positive contributions African-Americans have made to American culture and be a window through which we can experience the next generation of ground breakers and game changers.
ASPiRE will offer a diverse slate of programming spanning five categories: movies (including features, documentaries and short films); music; comedy; visual and performing arts; and faith and inspirational shows. The network's initial schedule will feature the following programming blocks:
- Groundbreaking Movies (Thursdays, 8 p.m.) – Renowned actor Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Boyz 'n the Hood) will guide viewers through the background, cultural relevance and historical significance of each night's selection. Currently scheduled films include Shaft, Rosewood, Bird, Sarafina!, Bustin' Loose, The Defiant Ones and Lilies of the Field.
- Groundbreaking Comedies (Tuesdays, 2 p.m., 8 p.m. & 11 pm) – Hosted by actor and comedian Jonathan Slocumb (Meet the Browns, "The Steve Harvey Show"), ASPiRE's Groundbreaking Comedies will celebrate trailblazing Black funnymen and women with iconic TV series including "The Bill Cosby Show" (Chet Kincaid), "The Flip Wilson Show" and more. Slocumb will share with audiences the known and not-so-known facts about the shows, their stars, and their enduring influence on popular culture. Groundbreaking and original standup comedy performances will also be featured.
- Groundbreaking Music and Performance Specials (Fridays, 8 p.m.) –Hosted by one of the biggest breakout stars of 2011, Grammy Award®-winning jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding (Chamber Music Society, Radio Music Society), this unique night of programming will present musical performances by pioneering and influential artists from every generation and genre. ASPiRE will also present examples of African-American theater, dance and visual arts, offering viewers a chance to enjoy the wide spectrum of talent in the African-American creative community. Programming will include "Jazz Giants of the 20th Century," "Make It Funky!" and "Earth, Wind & Fire in Concert" to name a few.
- "ABFF Independent" (Mondays, 8 p.m.) – This weekly two-hour original show, hosted by actor Omari Hardwick (Sparkle, I Will Follow), will present the best shorts and feature films from emerging African-American writers, producers and directors, selected from the American Black Film Festival (ABFF).
- Groundbreaking Documentaries (Wednesdays, 8 p.m.) – Fascinating films chronicling the real-life events, people and places that shaped the course of African-American history and culture, currently scheduled documentaries include Academy Award® winner When We Were Kings, Rising from the Rails: The Story of the Pullman Porter and Oscar's Black Odyssey: From Hattie to Halle, among others.
- "I ASPiRE" Featurettes – These 30- and 60-second shorts offer intimate profiles of and by the next generation of groundbreakers and game changers across African-American culture. The short films feature a dynamic selection of creative talent including concert pianist Jade Simmons from Houston, painter Matthew Thomas from Memphis and surfer Marcos Chatman from Los Angeles.
"It has been a long-held dream of mine to launch a television network that offers viewers inspiring and positive portrayals of African-American lifestyles, accomplishments and talent, while also creating opportunities for the next generation of artists and storytellers," said ASPiRE Chairman and CEO Earvin "Magic" Johnson. "My vision for ASPiRE could only become a reality with a group of visionaries and bold charter brand partners, The Chrysler Group, L'Oreal USA, Nationwide Insurance, Coca-Cola and Walmart. I am thrilled to have GMC TV as my partner along with our affiliate partners Comcast, Time Warner Cable and FAVE TV to help make this dream come true."
Added ASPiRE General Manager Paul Butler: "It's tremendously exciting to be part of a new venture that we all believe is poised for great success. I look forward to implementing Earvin's vision and to making ASPiRE a top viewing choice for African-American households, as well as the next big platform for the African-American creative community."
ASPiRE was selected by Comcast from among over 100 candidates as one of four new minority-owned independent networks to be distributed to millions of households on Comcast's digital basic tier.
GMC will provide operational support for ASPiRE, including affiliate and advertising sales, marketing, programming, production and technical operations. Charles Humbard, GMC President and CEO, said: "We are delighted to be partnered with Earvin Johnson in the creation of this new network. Between his inspired leadership and our day-to-day operational experience in programming for, and marketing to, African-American audiences, our two brands are a perfect fit."
ASPiRE expects to be available in over 12 million homes by the end of 2012 and in 20 to 30 million homes by the end of 2013.
About Laurence Fishburne
Oscar nominee Laurence Fishburne is a critically acclaimed star of movies, television and theater as well as a playwright, producer and director. His numerous film roles include What's Love Got to Do with It, The Matrix, Boyz 'n the Hood, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Mystic River, Akeelah and the Bee, Othello and Higher Learning. On television, his credits include "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," The Tuskegee Airmen and Miss Evers' Boys, as well as an Emmy-winning guest performance on "Tribeca." On stage, Fishburne won a Tony Award® for his performance in "Two Trains Running."
About Jonathan Slocumb
Renowned for his ability to crack up even the most jaded audiences with his squeaky-clean humor, Slocumb is best known to fans of the "The Steve Harvey Show" as Steve's band-mate Clyde, a role he played for five years. He has hosted numerous awards shows, appeared on "Jamie Foxx Presents Laffapalooza" for Comedy Central and played the part of the pastor in the Tyler Perry comedy Meet the Browns. Slocumb is also the creator, host and producer of GMC TV's original comedy series "Ha! Standing Up for Clean Comedy." As a stage actor, he just completed a national tour with the play "Cheaper to Keep Her," starring Brian McKnight and Vivica A. Fox.
About Esperanza Spalding
In 2005, at the age of 20, jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding became the youngest faculty member in the history of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her first solo album, "Esperanza" (2008), was the year's best-selling album by a new jazz artist internationally and stayed atop the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart for over 70 weeks. In 2011, Esperanza released her ground-breaking internationally critically acclaimed Chamber Music Society and received the Grammy® for Best New Artist. She has performed at the White House (twice), been featured in a Banana Republic ad campaign and received the Jazz Journalists Association's 2009 Jazz Award for Up and Coming Artist of the Year. Esperanza has just released Radio Music Society, her follow up to Chamber Music Society, a kaleidoscopic collection celebrating the power of song. The 12 songs are accompanied by conceptual short musical films, which further express Esperanza's inspiration and story behind each track. The videos were shot in various locations including New York City; Barcelona, Spain; and Portland, Oregon.
About Omari Hardwick
Hardwick's numerous film credits include Sparkle, I Will Follow, For Colored Girls, Kick-Ass, The A-Team, The Guardian, Beauty Shop and Gridiron Gang. Also known for his television roles, he played Ty Curtis on TNT's "Dark Blue," opposite Dylan McDermott, and was John "Sack" Hallon on the 2006 TNT series "Saved," opposite Tom Everett Scott. The multi-talented Hardwick was a football star at the University of Georgia, where he minored in theater, and has written over 4,000 poems.
Spearheaded by entrepreneur and NBA Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson, in partnership with GMC TV, ASPiRE delivers enlightening, entertaining and positive programming to African-American families that includes movies, documentaries, short films, music, comedy, visual and performing arts, and faith and inspirational programs. ASPiRE celebrates African-American heritage and groundbreaking cultural achievements and will create new opportunities for the next generation of African-American visionaries. For more information, visit www.aspire.tv.
About Magic Johnson Enterprises
Magic Johnson Enterprises acts as a catalyst for driving unparalleled business results for its partners and fosters community/economic empowerment by making available high-quality entertainment, products and services that answer the demands of ethnically diverse urban communities. For more information, visit http://magicjohnson.com/enterprises.
About GMC TV
GMC (www.watchGMCtv.com) is America's favorite television channel for uplifting music and family entertainment. The Parents Television Council™ has twice awarded its Entertainment Seal of Approval™ to GMC for being "an authentic family-friendly cable network." GMC is the only television network brand to be so honored. GMC has been the fastest growing entertainment network in television in the key demographics of W18-49 and W25-54.
GMC can be seen in more than 51 million homes on various cable systems around the country, as well as DISH Network on channel 188, DIRECTV on channel 338 and Verizon FiOS on channel 224. Follow GMC TV on Facebook and Twitter at http://facebook.com/gmctv and http://twitter.com/gmctv.