AdAge: Byron Allen’s HBCU GO Network Signs Procter & Gamble, Walmart And Other Big Advertisers

In deals totaling ‘well into the millions’ the streaming network Allen acquired last year also draws major auto brands, AT&T and Verizon. By Jack Neff. Published on September 09, 2022.


Byron Allen’s HBCU GO streaming network has signed a group of major advertisers to back its 2022-23 season of historically Black colleges and university football coverage, including four of the top 25 U.S. spenders as measured by the Ad Age Datacenter—Walmart, Procter & Gamble Co., AT&T and Verizon.

Other major sponsors for the first season also include Toyota, Stellantis, Honda, Lowes, Macy’s, Yum Brands’ Taco Bell, Dairy Queen, SC Johnson, United Healthcare and Safelite. In an interview, Allen, the group chairman-CEO of Allen Media Group, said the advertiser commitments total “well into the millions.”

The first game of the season is a Sept. 10 matchup between Albany State and Florida A&M, which follows a three-hour preseason special that took place Sept. 3. HBCU GO is the leading media outlet for 107 HBCUs, with the free, ad-supported streaming network available on Allen Media Group’s The Grio streaming app, as well as its Sports TV and Local Now properties.

Through a recently announced carriage deal with CBS-owned-and-operated broadcast stations, the network also will be avail- able over the air in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Tampa, Detroit, Miami and Pittsburgh.

HBCU GO was founded in 2012, covering Southwestern Athletic Conference and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference games among others. Allen acquired the network last year and has integrated it into his The Grio platform. In all, HBCU GO and The Grio have carriage deals covering 50 million households, Allen said.

HBCU football has gained added prominence in recent years since the SWAC’s Jackson State hired Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders as head coach in 2020, followed by high- profile recruits and the recent addition of former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to the staff.

But Allen said HBCUs already have had plenty of prominence, known for graduating Martin Luther King Jr., Kamala Harris, Wilma Rudolph, Althea Gibson, Walter Payton, Michael Strahan, Jerry Rice, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson and Oprah Winfrey among others.

Allen is notable among other things for his $10 billion lawsuit against McDonald’s Corp. fordiscrimination in not buying media from his Entertainment Studios and Weather Group media companies. McDonald’s is not a sponsor of HBCU Go, either, though rivals Taco Bell and Dairy Queen are.

The list represents progress in big advertisers investing in Black-owned, Allen said. But it doesn’t go far enough.

“The ad dollars are increasing, and they will continue to increase,” Allen said. “Not enough. Not fast enough. But they’re going to get there.”