Black Streaming: Peep These Networks And What They Cost

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

There are now more Black-focused streaming services than ever before, some backed by big names and companies like Whoopi Goldberg and BET, while others are more grassroots.

The result is more variety for Black subscribers who would rather directly support Black creatives or apps focused on Black viewers than assist in inflating Amazon or Disney’s bottom lines. 

In February, Whoopi Goldberg was revealed as an equity investor and a creative force behind Larry Adams’s Blkfam streaming service. As Adams told The Hollywood Reporter, the idea for a streaming service focused on Black family content came to him when scrolling another network’s Black Voices section, and he found it wanting inaccuratee representation. 

“When I was developing the HBO Max go-to-market strategy, we identified that families are — from a business perspective — they are the ones that are on multiple streaming services. Most people are gonna have one or two, but families are gonna have up to eight, especially as we move to an unbundled world. You’re gonna need a lot of different types of content sources for folk,s and I realize, no one’s addressing Black family streamers. We need content that is curated, and that is OK to watch alone but certainly able to watch together.” Adams said. 

Blkfam is ad-supported, which means that, like other platforms such as Tubi and Amazon’s Freevee, subscribers do not have to pay for the service. It is currently available on iOS, Android, Prime Video Channels, Roku, YouTube TV, Vizio, LG, Samsung, and Fire TV devices. Adams is also looking for ways to integrate brands as co-producers of content, a way for the platform to generate additional funding.

Adams described the synergistic relationship he and Goldberg would aim to cultivate to the Hollywood Reporter, saying, “Tactically what she brings to the table is a deep understanding of how great content gets done, but more so she has actual IP that she’s been working on,” Adams said. “She’s got a book series that we will bring to life; she’s got show ideas — she’s also, to me, a great arbiter of taste on what should be showing up on the platform. So she’s really bringing her expertise entertainment across multiple kinds of categories.”

BET+, the streaming service launched by Black Entertainment Television in 2019 in partnership with Tyler Perry, who ended a partnership with Oprah’s OWN network to do so, contains approximately 2,000 hours of Black content. It is billed as a premium content service and costs $9.99 monthly to subscribe to the content.  

Before Perry’s jump to Netflix, a common criticism of the network was that it was too focused on him and his suite of programming. That initial criticism has been replaced by worries that the platform’s viewership base is too small to adequately support breakthrough shows like Diarra From Detroit, which w

Washington Post critic Helena Andrews-Dyer praised Andrews-Dyer spoke to series creator and star Diarra Kilpatrick, and Kilpatrick highlighted that she did not have to fight for her show. “I did not have to fight for the right to exist. They knew they were making some kind of Black show. I’m a Black woman. I’m darker than a paper bag. I’m over 35, which is when they tell us the roles are going to start to decline. And they gave me the space to make this show. I’m really proud of it because that’s very rare.”

Something really fun I did recently was making a cameo on the @betplus series Diarra From Detroit, a compelling, comedic mystery that will keep you guessing. Even better, I got to hang out with creator and star of the series @DiarraOni in our city, talking about all things…

— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) April 23, 2024

On the opposite end of the spectrum from BET+ sits KweliTV. In 2017, a Medium post from the platform announced its official launch out of its beta phase and declared its intention to share the African diaspora “through undiscovered documentaries, films, web shows, children’s programming, news and more.” The post continued, “Kweli means truth in Swahili, so the mission is to curate content that is a true reflection of the black experience.”

Since that time, KweliTV has expanded its reach. In April, Founder and CEO DeShuna Spencer announced the creation of kweliFUND, the network’s crowdfunding platform, which has been designed to support its storytellers and creators. In a press release, Spencer stressed the platform’s commitment to Black stories and storytellers. “kweliFUND represents our commitment to empowering Black storytellers and providing them with the resources they need to thrive,” Spencer said. “We believe in the power of storytelling to create meaningful change, and with kweliFUND, we’re building a platform where creators can bring their visions to life and connect with supporters who share our passion for Black culture.”

KweliTV is available on the same platforms as Blkfam, except for Prime Video Channels (the website says support is coming soon). It also has several membership plans available for purchase, ranging from a $2.99 ad-supported version all the way up to a yearly ad-free plan that costs $49.99. The annual subscription tier and the premium monthly tier come with a variety of benefits like discounts to Black-owned brands, free giveaways and KweliTV merchandise, and a member-only loyalty program, events and community. 

ALLBLK is notable for its position as the first streaming service created to host  Black TV and film. Launched as The Urban Movie Channel (UMC) by former BET owner Robert Johnson in 2014, ALLBLK bills itself as an inclusive but unapologetically Black streaming experience. Although their offerings seem to mostly consist of their content and programming from independent creators, some content, such as Love After Lockup, is pulled from other sources.

Notably, the service hosts the critically acclaimed Black horror documentary from Shudder, Horror Noire. The service offers a free 7-day trial, but once the trial period expires, users must pay $5.99 a month to remain subscribed. As PCMag’s Jordan Minor described the service in his review, “As the revamped version of the Urban Movie Channel, Allblk retains that focus on modern, Black films. Think of it as the inverse of Brown Sugar’s classic Blaxploitation catalog or a more modest alternative to the mainstream selection of BET+.”

According to its listing on the Apple app store, Brown Sugar is a streaming service that focuses on classic Black cinema, and the language in its listing also emphasizes its promotion of Blaxploitation era films, even calling its prospective subscribers “cool cats.” In addition to Apple, the service is available on the same services as Blkfam, and although the service is ad-free, it comes at a relatively accessible $3.99 monthly price point. 

The low price makes those who subscribe to the service fairly forgiving of its occasional hiccups. A subsidiary of Bounce TV, the service also contains original programming from their line-up.

Brown Sugar, a nod to the Pam Grier Blaxploitation flick of the same name, updates its titles like any other streaming service, which also results in some confusing omissions from the service. Although the service somewhat modernizes the films that it primarily focuses on by digitally preserving the film’s original posters, its interface is limited. For example, you cannot fast forward or rewind by 15 seconds, but the service has useful subtitles, considering the film’s spotty audio quality.

As Jordan Minor writes in his review of the service for PC Mag, “With so many streaming services out there, dominating a niche seems like the only way to stand out from the pack. Even as its library fluctuates, Brown Sugar’s focus on classic Blaxploitation movies is one of the more exciting and worthwhile film history niches we can think of, especially at its price.”

Black streaming services genuinely offer something for everyone, while some like BET+ and Blkfam are more polished, others, like KweliTV and Brown Sugar, deliver through their focus on niche markets. As the saying goes, Blackness and Black people are not a monolith, and so it is streaming services that aim to cater to the viewing tastes of Black people. Some will enjoy the shows being developed and lauded by audiences on BET+, some will enjoy the nostalgia of Brown Sugar, and others will appreciate the focus on telling and amplifying the stories from KweliTV. Regardless of your personal viewing appetite, there is something that will sate your desires if you want to look for it. 

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts

Follow Us

Sign up for our Newsletter


Get all latest news and updates.