Roger -How did you get your start within the Media Industry?
Traci Otey Blunt- I have had the exciting opportunity to work with Bob Johnson (founder of Black Entertainment Television) for the past 9 years. For six years, I worked at The RLJ Companies, which is the holding company that comprises his 10 portfolio business enterprises ranging from private equity, automotive, hotel real estate investment, financial services, VLT gaming, and entertainment. I met Mr. Johnson while I was on the Hillary for President 2008 presidential campaign and following the campaign, he asked me to join his company to manage his executive visibility/brand and the corporate communications, public affairs, and political affairs across The RLJ Companies. The corporate communications and public affairs position was created for me and I developed and launched the department within The RLJ Companies. In this role, I have worked closely with Mr. Johnson across the business entities under The RLJ Companies banner. In 2012, he founded RLJ Entertainment and I was part of the team that launched the business.
In 2014, after the tremendous success of AcornTV, RLJ Entertainment’s first niche subscription video on demand (SVOD) streaming channel focused on British mystery and drama, he decided to launch a niche SVOD streaming service focused on serving African American and urban audiences called Urban Movie Channel (UMC). Bob Johnson moved me over to RLJ Entertainment as the EVP for Corporate Marketing and Corporate Affairs and he also assigned me to develop and launch UMC. In February 2017, I was named President of UMC.
Roger Maloney- Can you describe your experience working as the Deputy Communications Director for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign?
Traci Otey Blunt- I have worked on many campaigns (and at every level) for over 20 years. The Clinton campaign was an exciting moment for me, and overall, the experience is one I will never forget! The 2008Hillary (Clinton) for President campaign was historic, exciting, and challenging to say the least. I served as a Deputy Communications Director and National Director of Communications for African American Media. I was responsible for garnering Black press coverage nationally – print, radio, television, online, etc. – and my counsel and insight regarding issues pertinent to Black America were a critical part of my job. I served as Hillary Clinton’s liaison to the Black Press and developed her briefing documents, talking points/remarks, and I prepared her for media interviews/appearances.
One of my most memorable (and proudest) moments was preparing her for the Howard University Presidential Debate/Forum (June 2007). I attended her afternoon “debate prep” and within minutes of her practice session, she asked me to lead her debate prep because I came prepared with a list of the questions that were discussed onThe Tom Joyner Morning Showearlier in the day – so I led the debate prep and she had a successful debate that night. Over the course of the campaign, Black America formidably supported then-Senator Barack Obama and although it was very challenging to convey Hillary Clinton’s vision for Black America and to tout her previous accomplishments, I made sure she conducted interviews with Black media throughout the campaign and through the 2008 Democratic Convention – following the suspension of her campaign the first interview she conducted was with a Black media outlet.
During Secretary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign, I (along with Bob Johnson) provided counsel on African American media and political outreach with campaign leadership and advisors. I wish more people had the opportunity to get to know the woman I have come to know over the last 10 years – Secretary Clinton is a dynamic and smart woman who would have made an extraordinary President. We remain in touch … most recently when Bob Johnson appointed me to UMC President, Secretary Clinton personally called to congratulate me!
Roger- Can you share your thoughts about why the Urban Movie Channel was created?
Traci Otey Blunt- UMC was designed to create an economic model where members of the creative community can monetize their talent and where the consumers will have a choice to purchase product and content that they can see on any device.
Roger- Can you talk about some the original content that is currently on the Urban Movie Channel?
Traci Otey Blunt- We are extremely excited about the new and original content that audiences can watch on UMC and about the content that is coming to the channel. Most recently, over the summer, we brought back our successful Fall Out Friday’s campaign where we add original/exclusive comedy series and stand-up every Friday (from July 4thweekend through Labor Day weekend). We have a new six-episode comedy series The Rich and The Ruthless, created by award winning actress Victoria Rowell (best known for her role as Drucilla on The Young and the Restless); we have a hilarious movie #DigitalLivesMatter featuring social media kings D.C. Young Fly and Emmanuel Hudson; and we have our first variety series Lawd Have Mercy, which is a Sunday church service version of America's Funniest Home Videos hosted by Flex Alexander and comedian/writer Buddy Lewis. We also brought back for a second season The Comedy Underground Series which initially premiered on UMC in 2015. The returning series, kicks off with new host Red Grant who spotlights some of the world's funniest comedic talent and rising stars. We also just announced the exclusive premiere of Hard Medicine a comedy-series executive produced by Jay Ellis (HBO’s Insecure). We are proud of the relationships that we currently have (and are developing) with existing, new and up-and-coming African American and urban directors, producers, writers, and talent.
Roger - In terms of marketing, what are some of the strategies or ways that Urban Movie Channel doing to increase subscribers to the channel?
Traci Otey Blunt- We don’t want to give away our strategy but we utilize social media and digital advertising. We are strategic and deliberate about where we currently advertise -- as we continue to grow, our reach will also expand. Our social media presence and awareness – FaceBook (www.facebook.com/urbanmoviechannel), InstaGram (@WatchUMC), Twitter(@WatchUMC) -- is growing and we are excited to be engaged in conversations that are relevant, timely, and meaningful to our target audience.
Roger- What advice do have for women of color who what to follow in your footsteps?
Traci Otely-Blunt- I always encourage women to take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to them – nothing happens by chance and you will always end up where you are supposed to be. I was a criminal justice major and studied for (and envisioned) a career in law enforcement but most of my career has been in the public relations and political sectors … working with Bob Johnson over the last nine years provided me with another opportunity to expand my skills and learn about the business and financial side of an organization.
I admit I was nervous when I moved from The RLJ Companies to RLJ Entertainment because I was out of my comfort zone. I had to take my own advice and take advantage of the opportunity that was presented – so, my advice is to: (1) always believe in yourself; (2) own your mistakes and learn from them; (3) not be afraid to seek counsel from others; and (4) never forget where you came from!
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