Black Entertainment Television (BET), founded in 1980 by Robert L. Johnson, was a forerunner in Black American cultural content. Johnson recognized a cultural opportunity gap in cable television and created BET to showcase the music, talk shows, comedy shows and movies made by Black creators for the Black community, and to share their culture with wider audiences.
Now, over 40 years after BET’s launch, streaming platform Mansa is paving the way for Black cultural content to reach a new global audience, while also granting ownership, equity and a sense of community to creators.
Below, we dive into the ways that Mansa is transforming the channels through whichBlack cultural content is served to global audiences, as well as how Robert F. Smithis supporting the platform to promote Black culture.
The Future of Curated Black Cultural Content
According to a study by Forbes Homes, Americans consume an average of 13 hours of digital media per day. That includes many of the world’s most popular streaming platforms. There is an abundance of choices when it comes to digital media for everyone, including for Black audiences. According to Nielsen, an organization that measures audience behavior, data and analytics, “Black audiences now have a lot more choice in programs that depict their real-life experiences” than in prior decades.
Mansa is looking to further expand these offerings by creating an extensive library of digital media reflecting on the experiences of Black people worldwide. Mansa founders David Oyelowo, Nate Parker, Chiké Okonkwo and Zak Tanjeloff used their background in and knowledge of film and tech to create an accessible and free streaming platform and content aggregator that promotes audience interaction and a creator-first environment. It includes movies, TV shows, user-generated content (UGC), video podcasts and more, featuring both veterans of the industry and new talent.
“Black culture is at the forefront of global culture,” said Mansa co-founder, David Oyelowo. “Yet at the same time, only the tip of the iceberg has been cultivated and propagated; we’re here to showcase the true breadth and depth of it for a global audience.”
Available through content suppliers like iOS, Android, FireTV and Amazon, as well as on Mansa’s web platform, the company offers digital linear (FAST) channels that indicate free, ad-supported television and on-demand titles. Additionally, audiences have the ability to watch trending videos via the platform’s mobile app and participate in watch parties with creators. As of April 2023, the streaming platform includes over 1,500 hours of content and partnerships with approximately 50 content suppliers.
Mansa has also raised over $8 million in seed round financing. It is financially backed by several well-known names in the industry, including MaC Venture Capital, Dubin & Co, Rainmaker Films, Galaxy Investment Partners, WndrCo, Base Ventures and entrepreneur, philanthropist and dealmaker Robert F. Smith. Other investors in the platform include James Norman, Wemimo Abbey and Black Capital VC.
Robert F. Smith’s Support of Mansa and Black Culture
Smith is a staunch advocate for initiatives that support the preservation and promotion of Black history and culture. With Mansa, he saw an opportunity to help usher in a fresh take on streaming.
Throughout the years, Smith has also provided support to many other like-minded organizations. In 2016, Smith funded a massive project at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) that provides Black Americans with a chance to discover their roots through the museum’s digitization program and other resources.
Smith is also the founding director and President of Fund II Foundation, an organization that works to preserve the Black American experience, culture and history. It also operates to advance social change through grants to public charities.
Learn more about Smith and his many initiatives by following him on LinkedIn.