Tyler Perry has had undeniable success at the Hollywood box office, bringing in over $522 million in ticket sales from his films including For Colored Girls, Madea’s Big Happy Family, and Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Apparently Lionsgate, the company behind his widely successful movies, is in talks of launching a 24/7 cable channel with Perry, tentatively called Tyler TV.
Jon Feltheimer, Lionsgate’s CEO, has not given a formal comment, but reportedly told analysts this morning that “we strongly support” the idea of bringing Perry to “exciting new platforms.” That could include a “not fully distributed [cable] channel that we could buy” or nesting Perry at “a channel we already have…. We have a lot of options if we choose to go down that path.”
According to the New York Times Perry and Lionsgate are exploring three potential avenues for launching their cable venture.
The TV Guide Network, in which Lionsgate has a 50 percent stake, is available is nearly 80 million homes and could be rebranded for Perry. Lionsgate and Perry could also buy a small, niche cable channel like the Gospel Broadcasting Network and rebrand and expand it. The other option would involve the cable giant Comcast, which gained government regulatory approval to take over NBC Universal by agreeing to provide more minority-run programming.
Tyler TV would be stocked with reruns of Perry’s movies and sitcoms as well as third party content that appeals to his predominately Christian audience.
At first glance, this proposed venture seems like a win for Perry. However, celebrity-branded cable networks are not a guaranteed “win.” For example, Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, which is a joint venture with Discovery Communication, has suffered low ratings since its launch in January 2011.
If the joint venture comes to life, there will certainly be those who say Perry does not deserve his own network. Many African-Americans feel that Perry’s productions, including his Madea series where he dresses in drag as the gun-toting, scripture quoting grandmother, perpetuates negative stereotypes of the black community.
On the other hand, Perry has successfully launched two television shows for TBS: Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and Meet the Browns. The national premiere of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne on TBS in June 2007 brought in 5.9 million viewers, and at the time was the cable channel’s biggest sitcom audience ever. This fall Perry will be debut a new TBS series, For Better or Worse, which is based on his Why Did I Get Married? films.
Perry is also the president and founder of Tyler Perry Studios, which employs hundreds of African-Americans in front of and behind the camera — a feat very few black media moguls can brag about.
Lionsgate and Perry have yet to comment on the Tyler TV venture. However, critics and fans should stay tuned to see how this progresses, because based on his past efforts, Perry seems to have a knack for winning.