Byron Allen: ‘I’d love to own CNN. And I will.’
The entertainment mogul says his ambitions are limitless
Byron Allen believes in ownership. He owns Entertainment Studios, theGrio’s parent company, which produces more than 60 syndicated shows, along with The Weather Channel and seven more 24-hour cable TV networks.
The media mogul recently completed the purchase of 15 local TV stations and bought and distributed films like 47 Meters Down and Hostiles.
In a lengthy profile in The Hollywood Reporter this week, Allen shared his goals to become an even more dominant player in the entertainment landscape.
He detailed how he emerged victorious in a $30 billion lawsuit against cable behemoth Comcast to air his content that went all the way to the Supreme Court. He began the lawsuit in 2014, which also includes Time Warner Cable (now Charter) using an obscure law, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, put in place to ensure former slaves had access to economic opportunities.
AT&T and Verizon aired Allen’s programming but Comcast and Charter fought hard to keep it off their airwaves. The case made its way to the Supreme Court where the ruling went against Allen 9-0 in March.
The court’s decision was based on the fact that race would have had to be proven the reason that Comcast would not carry the channels. The case was returned to a lower court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
But in June, Allen and Comcast came to terms. The cable giant agreed to continue broadcasting The Weather Channel and “additional content.” The outcome of the Charter case has yet to be determined in court.
But it’s that kind of tenacity, creativity, and boldness that has served Allen well as one of the few African-American owners of a multimedia company in U.S. history.
“African Americans don’t have access to capital,” Allen, 59, told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s amazing that for the first 15 to 20 years of my company, I couldn’t get a single bank loan.”
In a sign of his progression, when he bought The Weather Channel in 2018, he was able to raise $300 million. He says his company is now worth 10 figures and he wouldn’t entertain an offer for $5 billion.
His friend and sometime chess opponent, Eddie Murphy, who sought Allen out as an inspiration on Black success in Hollywood during his days hosting the early reality show Real People, says Allen’s success is due to his patience.
“You know how you can sum up Byron is his chess game,” Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter.
“Byron played a lot of chess back in the early days. There was a group of people in town, like Berry Gordy and Jim Brown, who would fly in good players. I played Byron a lot. I’m a much better chess player than Byron. Like, nobody beats me. If I had played Byron on the clock, I would have killed Byron.
“But we didn’t play on the clock — we just played. And that’s Byron’s game. He’s super patient. He takes a long time between every move,” Murphy added. “He does it until you get frustrated — and then you do something stupid, and then all he needs is a little tiny crack. Just a pawn, any type of advantage, and he had you. That is Byron in a nutshell.”
That’s the quality that should lead Allen to his next goal, as he said despite all that he’s accomplished, he’s not done.
“I’d love to own CNN,” Allen said. “But I have to buy AT&T to do that. And I will. Believe me, I think about it every day.”
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