TVOne’s New Number One: A Conversation with President and CEO Wonya Lucas

January 19, 2012  |  

What were some of the show ideas that you brainstormed?

I can’t tell you that yet! (laughing)  I can say that there will be a wide variety of programming.  It will be slightly different than what we have on the air, but it will also build on what we have on the air.  I’m hoping that in the next couple of months I’ll be able to talk specifics, but right now we are just taking all of the ideas – and we have a lot of ideas – and putting them into concept test to see what the audience thinks.  And then we’re going to start developing shows pretty quickly.  So you’ll see the first round of shows hit the air in first quarter of next year.

There has been a lot of talk about reality programming and how African Americans are portrayed on those shows.  People are unhappy with the images, but the shows still do really well.  Do you feel pressured to get ratings?  Are you more concerned about the image portrayed or the number of people that tune in?

From a business perspective, I’m concerned about viewership – but not in that way.  Honestly, if you look at what African American people watch, it’s not just those shows.  There are many genres that African American people watch; that just happens to be what gets written about.  You can look at one or two of those shows that get good ratings but, if you look at the breadth of what people watch, it’s not representative.  We’re really into breadth versus playing in that field because that’s representative of those brands.  It won’t be representative of ours.

What major challenges and opportunities do you foresee for yourself and the future of TVOne?

I think the challenges will be the same that any person sitting in my seat faces.  There are a lot of television networks, and there are a lot of eyeballs.  And African Americans don’t just watch African American networks; they watch a lot of majority networks. So the challenge is, how do you break through in a very cluttered, noisy environment?  As far as opportunities, we have a good brand, but I think we could increase our awareness tremendously.  I think that’s a huge opportunity for us.  And we also have a challenge and an opportunity given the fact that we have so much acquired programming.  One of the things that you’ll see moving forward is that we’ll have significantly more original programming – by this time next year.  And we’re going to be bold; we’re going to take some risks.  But I think that in the end, if we had this conversation a year from now, you’ll see what I mean by really being relevant in the black community and being informing while still being entertaining.  At the end of the day people watch television to be entertained and to be informed, and that’s our goal.

How will you measure your success?

I always start with people because I can’t make any of this happen by myself.  So the way I’ll judge our success is in how we as team have progressed and evolved, making sure that we each have individual milestones and that everyone – whether they’re the head of marketing or the head of programming – knows what their milestones are and that everyone is hitting on all cylinders. We need to be even stronger as a team so that we have joint successes. Obviously we’ll look at ratings and audience measurements, and I would love to have at least one more series that really does resonate with people and that is meaningful like “Unsung”.  And I would say the final thing is that I think we have ideas that are meaningful in the community, and I would love to see those become all that I think they can be – something that really does go beyond just a television idea.

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