But as the Chairman and CEO of ASPiRE — a television network launched on Comcast Cable in June 2012 to deliver enlightening, entertaining, and positive programming to African American families — Earvin is hoping for a slightly different kind of reaction. One that starts in people’s homes and grows to inspire whole communities. And one that takes him back to his childhood in Lansing, Michigan, when his parents and six siblings would gather around the television for family time.
"We watched TV as a family," Earvin says. "To hear the laughter of 10 people in a house was great. I want to take us back to those days by providing family-driven content that will make people socialize as families again."
Such is the inspiration behind ASPiRE, which grew out of an extensive search by Comcast for new, independent networks owned by and targeted toward minority audiences. ASPiRE is delivered to 15 million homes nationwide, and Comcast offers the network in nearly 9 million homes and across 12 of the top 25 African American markets, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.
The network offers movies, lifestyle coverage, documentaries, music, comedy, arts, and inspirational programming that African American families can identify with and talk about around the kitchen table, in the office, or at the salon, says Earvin.
"We used to have that back in the day," he says, mentioning legendary stars Bill Cosby, Diahann Carroll, and Flip Wilson. "You had different shows where people could say, ‘Wow, this show is for us, by us.’ I want to drive African American families back to that."
In Comcast, Earvin found a partner that not only shares his vision, but also has the platform to help him execute it. ASPiRE’s original programming includes ABFF Independent, a film showcase of shorts, features, and documentaries by independent African American filmmakers; The Root 100, hosted by CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux; and I ASPiRE profiles, which spotlight the next generation of African Americans, including a surfer, race car drivers, spoken-word poets, business school students, and a high school sports journalist.
"I think people will walk away saying, ‘That’s my girl!’" Earvin says. "Or, ‘Hey, that guy, I want to be like him’ — just like I did when I was growing up."
Earvin and network General Manager Paul Butler have high hopes for ASPiRE, including creating a growing cast of role models behind the camera. The network’s community outreach spans scholarships, internships, and educational programs. The network is already involved in African American community events and partnerships with organizations such as the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), National Association of Black Journalists, and the Circle of Sisters.
ASPiRE is the first and only national cable network certified as a Minority Business Enterprise by the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Through its original content, ASPiRE has provided opportunities and a platform for nearly 400 minority individuals and 200 women. The network provides opportunities for new African American trendsetters and tastemakers to display their creative talents, and these opportunities are growing as ASPiRE works to reach 30 million homes in the coming years.
No stranger to achieving great things alongside teammates, Earvin says ASPiRE’s partnership with Comcast has been nothing short of "a blessing."
"You pray for great partnerships — you really do," he says. "You want to have a partner that gets it. You want to have the same values, and when you think diversity and inclusion, Comcast is at the top."
Learn more about ASPiRE.