When Optimum and it’s parent company, Dutch media giant Altice decided to drop Starz, there was widespread outrage. 50 Cent’s NAACP award winning smash hit “Power” is Starz’s most popular show. It is the #1 premium show with African American audiences and #2 nationally. “Optimum doesn’t think POWER is good enough after all the success of the show. The numbers are great, I guess it’s the wrong color faces in the picture again” said a frustrated 50 Cent on an Instagram post. The show starring Omari Hardwick, Joseph Sikora, Lela Loren, Naturi Naughton, and 50 Cent is well known for having a diverse crew both behind and in front of the camera.
Aside from entertainment, Starz productions in New York City have generated 18,150 jobs since 2013 and $291 million in to the economy. Not only was Starz cut, but the price of the Optimum bill remained the same. Several members of the New York City activist community mobilized in a strategic effort to apply pressure so that the CEOs of Altice and Lionsgate (the company that owns Starz) can sit down and negotiate a deal.
The Black Institute implemented a multidimensional “Power to the People” Campaign to encourage the black community in New York to voice their concerns over Optimum cutting the highly successful drama. After mass outreach, State Senators Jesse Hamilton, Jose Peralta, Assemblypeople Michael Blake, Walter Mosley, Diane Richardson, Councilpeople Inez Barron, Robert Cornergy, Vanessa Gibson, Rafael Salamanca, Jumaane Williams, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York President Hawk Newsome, and social media personality Tyhem Commodore got involved.
“We took a couple of weeks to put together the grassroots campaign and we went out and executed. To our surprise, 3 days later, the CEO of Altice and the CEO of Lionsgate sat down to negotiate a deal.” says Derek Perkinson, Chief Community Organizer for the Black Institute.
“We could have done a lot more, and we were planning on doing a lot more, but we didn’t have to," says Persinson. The organizers knocked on 3,000 doors in 3 days and accumulated more than 1,500 signatures in New York City and Long Island in support of bringing “Power” back to New York City viewers.
Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York argues that there are broader implications to this media campaign for the black community as a whole.
“This victory has shown that the true power is in the people," he said. "The people has shown that if our community comes together that we can make corporations meet our needs. Black Lives Matter of Greater New York engaged in this fight because it is about equity. It is about people respecting our purchasing power."