Streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO Max are replacing TV and DVDs. This shift has generated billions of dollars in revenue for these platforms and more importantly for content creators.
The unfortunate reality however is that not everyone is benefitting equally from these platforms. Some communities remain marginalized even online. The black community in the US has been one of these.
Akin Adebowale a creative director and his partner Ousman Sahko noticed this inequality.
They realized that of the more than $18 billion spent on advertisement on TV and digital content aimed at Black audiences only 1% goes to Black creators on Youtube and Facebook.
“Black creative power doesn’t equate [to] economic power, so in other words, Black creators are driving mainstream culture but are inadequately paid,” Adebowale said in an interview on LA Times.
The two decided to do something about it and BlackTag was born. An online platform dedicated to black content creators.
“We’re not only creating opportunities for artists and creators to monetize their work that is the foundation of our culture, but also creating a place for every fan who has ever scrolled through traditional platforms looking for people who look like them and content that truly resonates, only to come up empty,” said Sahko, a former director at Google’s creative agency arm and the company’s president and chief content officer.
Launched in February this year the platform already boasts partnerships with famous celebrities such as actress and co-creator Issa Rae and rapper Common.
For its seed funding, Blacktag raised an impressive $3.75 million with Connect Ventures an investment partnership between Creative Artists Agency and Silicon Valley venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, coming up with most of it. Other investors include Chief Executive David Rogier.
Subscription for the service costs $5.99 a month for original content but is free for user-generated and sponsored content. Creators are able to earn revenue in two ways: partnership deals with Blacktag Studio and brand deals.
Adebowale, the company’s CEO detailed his ambition to gain 30 million users and 15000 creators and partnerships with 300 brands in five years.
The platform will however not focus on US audiences only but will support Black creators globally. This is reflected in the international heritage of its founders with both coming from West Africa. Sahko emigrated from Sierra Leone while Adebowale came to the U.S from Nigeria as a child.
“This is a platform that is targeted for a very specific but large audience. It is becoming more and more important, as consumers choose where they want to spend their time and attention.” said general partner at New Enterprise Associates, Rick Yang.
However, it will not be smooth sailing for the ambitious startup. The shutdown of Quibi, a similar streaming service from Hollywood in just six months after getting around $2 billion in backing underscores the challenge ahead.
Blacktag is confident they won’t make the same mistake. For instance, they work with creators directly so that they can get a better insight on the best content for their now growing fanbase.
“Quibi was just like a massive whale of a failure. But really, we’re driven by Black creators and Black content and the power of it,” said Adebowale.
The platform also faces competition from more established networks such as AMC Network’s streaming service UMC, Blavity and BET. Their executives are however betting that their focus on the target market of 18–35-year-olds will give them the edge they so desperately need.
Launched earlier this year Blacktag comes at a time with increased pressure for more corporate diversity in entertainment, media and tech, especially in light of the police killing of George Floyd and other similar stories. The platform may help get some more money and attention to an otherwise underserved community.