The Source is giving hip-hop fans a streaming service all their own.
Parent company The Northstar Group is debuting the ad-supported platform Source Streaming, launching today in beta on Apple, Google, Roku and Amazon platforms, as well as on The Source’s website.
The streamer comes from NorthStar Group chairman and owner-publisher of The Source, L. Londell McMillan, who emphasized the importance of Black-owned businesses in the media landscape. The streamer’s tagline is: “Our Stories, On Demand, For the Culture.”
“You can count on maybe one hand the number of Black-owned media moguls that have had a national media business,” McMillan told Adweek. “We’ve always felt left out, we always felt that we don’t have our stories told, we feel like we always have to bend to the distribution platforms of others, which compromises our integrity, or be told that we have to make content a certain type of way.”
The Source has been operating for 33 years, but McMillan believes now is the optimal time to enter the streaming space, citing the abundance of cord cutters as well as the acceleration of streaming due to the pandemic. Source Streaming is one of several AVOD services that have rolled out during the pandemic, including Peacock and the short-lived Quibi.
“People are tired of just clicking around all over the place, trying to find the right kind of narratives and stories of either hip-hop culture, authentic Black culture, diversity of culture, culture for people of color. Culture from women that’s empowering and not in any way patronizing. So we want to be that space where we tell real stories,” said McMillan.
Source Streaming will not debut with a presenting sponsor, but will have programmatic integrations throughout the entire platform. McMillan said there are a “number of advertisers” that have direct private marketplace deals to be embedded in the programmatic sales platform.
While the service is launching as an AVOD to bring in further partners, there will eventually be an SVOD version of the streamer: ad-free, requiring a monthly subscription.
McMillan described the platform as brand-safe for advertisers looking to buy in the space. “If you want a brand safe environment for hip-hop on a national scale, The Source magazine and Source Streaming is your only platform that really exists for that on a national scale,” he said. “We’re hoping that our advertisers who want this audience will respect that, don’t just buy us just because we’re Black-owned, but buy us because our stories are compelling. They’re clearly mainstream now, and therefore the culture.”
The platform has five tabs of content: originals, films, music, news and culture. McMillan emphasized that the streamer is not just a destination for music videos, but rather a full location of aggregated content of Black and Hispanic stories.
While other platforms may have pieces of content or certain initiatives dedicated to Black culture, Source Streaming aims to be the go-to destination in the space.
Source Streaming will see over 70 pieces of content during its beta launch, with premieres of originals beginning March 1. Those include a documentary film, The Pursuit Of Greatness, and a scripted series, To Live & Die In Bed Stuy.
The service will also operate as a platform for top artists, with exclusive content from creators like Cardi B, Nipsey Hussle and Lil Baby, while the Uncovered vertical pulls back the curtain on Source magazine cover shoots with Roddy Rich, Kendrick Lamar, DJ Khaled, Wiz Khalifa and more.
McMillan hopes the culture tab will serve as a “potpourri of different content” from cultural leaders such as radio DJs producing their own content. The music tab will separate explicit and clean content, with McMillan noting there is a market for clean hip-hop music.
“I’ve been trying to tell the record companies this for 25 years,” said McMillan. “So now we get a chance to showcase clean, curated playlists of videos.”
He noted that The Source’s website has more than tripled its digital reach in the past few years with over 150 million impressions, ranking in the top 5% of all entertainment and music websites measured by Comscore.
“We think that the advertising community has a great opportunity to show that they’re working with not just Black-targeted media, but Black-owned and targeted media,” said McMillan. “We’re a Black-owned independent company that has not enjoyed the benefit of huge advertising. If not now, when?”
When it comes to building out a brand, McMillan wants to stay true to The Source’s original roots. “I would love for The Source to still represent the authentic home of hip-hop culture that tells our stories on demand for the culture, both locally, nationally, and globally,” he said.
He pointed out that these stories are often not picked up by major players such as Amazon or Netflix, and then default to YouTube, noting “We know we’ll be able to scale and better monetize on a per-view basis.”
McMillan also plans to bring back the live Source Awards event beginning in 2022, which could also stream on the platform. The annual ceremony aired from 1994 to 2004.