Yesterday, I had the honor of participating in a panel discussing inequities in corporate America at the National Action Network’s Annual National Convention. My fellow panelists from across the private sector provided thoughtful commentary about how partnerships with civil rights organizations are advancing their work to better serve minority communities.
Across the Comcast family of companies, we have a clear and proven track record of serving diverse communities, and the conversation yesterday was an excellent opportunity to reflect on that track record and to express our excitement about being in a position to extend our commitment to workforce and programming diversity to millions more Americans once our transaction with Time Warner Cable closes.
At Comcast and NBCUniversal, we strive to reflect the communities we serve at all levels. That starts with Comcast’s Board of Directors, which is one third diverse, including two African Americans – Kenneth J. Bacon and Johnathan A. Rodgers. At Comcast, we’re also proud of our innovative external African American Diversity Advisory Council which provides advice to senior executive teams across the company regarding diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Today, African Americans account for 22 percent of Comcast and NBCUniversal’s overall workforce, a point of pride when other industries often fail to reflect our society. We have implemented hiring, development, and pipeline initiatives designed to increase the representation of African Americans at the executive level as well. The results are impressive. Between 2010 and 2013 the number of African Americans increased by 20 percent at the director level and by 26 percent at the vice president level. This includes our tech workforce where I am proud to share that some of our top tech leaders are African American. One of the highest ranking tech leaders at the company is Sherita Ceasar, Comcast’s Senior Vice President of National Video Deployment Engineering. And Sherita is not alone. Comcast’s other African American leaders in technology include Franklyn Athias, who is Senior Vice President of IP Communications and Services; Derek Brown, our Vice President of Enterprise Services; Ebony Lee, who is Vice President of Strategic Development; and Mark Miller, who is Vice President of Product Development Engineering.
And African Americans are represented in leadership across the company at the corporate and regional levels as well. At the corporate level, that includes Charisse Lillie, who is Vice President of Community Investment and President of the Comcast Foundation and Bret Perkins, who is Vice President of External and Government Affairs. Other African American leaders at Comcast include Doug Gaston, who is our Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Cable Division; the President of the West Division Steve White; Hank Fore, who is the Senior Vice President of the California Region; and Rich Jennings, who is the Senior Vice President of the Mile High Region. And we have Kim Harris, who is Executive Vice President and General Counsel of NBCUniversal and Keith Cheatham, who serves as Senior Vice President of Real Estate across Comcast and NBCUniversal.
And our diversity efforts aren’t just internal – we are aggressively expanding the business we do with diverse suppliers. In 2013 alone, Comcast and NBCUniversal spent $1.3 billion with diverse vendors, and we have increased our spending with African American vendors by 192 percent since 2010. Through Comcast Ventures’ Catalyst Fund we are working to cultivate and fund minority entrepreneurs with innovative start-ups, including the African American-led Maker’s Row, Mercaris, and Quad Learning.
Programming is a key area of focus in terms of our commitment to diversity. No other media company has been more supportive of diverse and independent programmers than Comcast and NBCUniversal. Comcast carries 15 networks geared towards the African American community, such as The Africa Channel, BET, Centric, UP TV, and TVOne. We’ve substantially expanded our carriage of diverse cable networks, including launching or expanding the distribution of 13 African American networks by over 35 million subscribers since 2011. In fact, it was Comcast that partnered with Radio One to help launch and grow TVOne. We recently supported the launch of two new African American-led networks in 2012 and 2013 – ASPiRE and REVOLT – and have committed to launching two more over the next few years. On our Xfinity On Demand platform we offer Black Cinema On Demand, a year-round offering that features themed movie collections that highlight African-American films, filmmakers, and actors. Xfinity’s Celebrate Black TV launched in 2013 and is a first-of-its-kind, one-stop Internet destination for entertainment features and news highlighting the African American experience – currently featuring black entertainment choices for our third annual Watchathon Week. NBC News also recently launched an African American-focused news website, NBCBLK, that covers politics and social issues to inform and inspire conversations around black identity and culture in America today.
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Comcast produced and created the award-winning HisDreamOurStories.com, and released expanded content earlier this year, featuring interviews with Civil Rights Leaders and participants – including an especially powerful interview with Reverend Billy Kyles – so that the history of the struggle is never forgotten.
At Universal Pictures, we are committed to backing films with African Americans in front of and behind the camera, including the highly successful "The Best Man" series directed by Malcolm D. Lee; the wildly popular "Ride Along" and forthcoming "Ride Along 2" films starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, produced by Will Packer; and the critically acclaimed James Brown biopic "Get On Up," starring Chadwick Boseman. The most successful and longest running franchise in Universal history has a diverse cast featuring African Americans – the "Fast and Furious" series has grossed over $3 billion worldwide. Since its release last week, "Furious 7," starring Tyrese Gibson and Chris Bridges (Ludacris), has grossed over $500 million worldwide, driven by an audience that was 75 percent diverse, including nearly 25 percent African American.
We are also committed to serving the diverse communities where we operate by supporting African American-led and serving nonprofit organizations and through our signature community investment priority, Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program for low-income Americans, which I had the privilege of discussing yesterday. We recently announced that in the three and a half years since we launched the program, we’ve connected more than 1.8 million low-income Americans to the power of the Internet. According to our surveys, 20 percent of the program participants are African American, meaning that tens of thousands of African American families now have access to broadband at home for the first time through Internet Essentials. And as a complement to our Internet Essentials program, we have invested more than $225 million in community-based digital literacy programs to help close the digital divide, reaching over 3 million people since 2011.
We look forward to expanding our commitments to diversity and serving the African American community in markets like New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Charlotte when our TWC transaction closes. There was a lot of excitement in the room yesterday when I had the chance to explain how we would extend these commitments into the TWC footprint – and we share that excitement.