If it's true that every dream starts as a twinkle in someone's eye, a secret desire of the heart or the mere utterance of the words "what if?", then it must also be true that for every starry-eyed dreamer there must also be a brilliant mind to translate the dream into reality... there must be steady, skillful hands to mold it into existence.
American Urban Radio Networks started out as a dream in 1972, a dream born out of the desire to reach a community of people inextricably bound by a common need for information, enlightenment and upliftment. And today, the men and women who keep the dream alive are still fervently committed to the ideals of their predecessors.
The evolution of American Urban Radio Networks has been winding and dramatic, with interesting plot twists and an equally interesting cast of characters, eachcontributing to the growth and development of the company in his or her own unique way.
From Ron Davenport Sr. and Sidney Small to Howard Eisen and Jerry Lopes, those whohave breathed life into American Urban Radio Networks have led with vision, innovation and fortitude, with an eye to the future and a firm grasp on the past. And it has never been an easy task. "Early on our biggest challenge was to get on the map, attack advertisers, and market our target demographic." says Co-Chairman Small. "Our biggest challenge today is that of commanding the premium advertising rate justified by our target audience."
American Urban Radio Networks is the new generation of Mutual Black Network (MBN), a division of the Mutual Broadcasting System, and the Pittsburgh-based Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Both companies were formed in 1972 and were quickly followed by National Black Network (NBN), which was launched by New York based Unity Broadcasting Corporation in 1973. Born out of the very heart of the black journalistic community, MBN was the brainchild of two African-American reporters who worked for Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS) and perceived a need for black-programmed radio stations to also have news reports created with them in mind to serve their unique interests. They sought and received approval from MBS owners to create a black report and positioned themselves within MBS as Mutual Black Network, providing news product for African-American oriented radio stations. Mutual did broadcasts on the hour and there was a window at 10 of the hour that they allotted for the black reporters to deliver news. To this day, that time still exists and one of our newscasts is broadcast at 50 past the hour, continuing that tradition.
MBN began to suffer and faltered under the weight of financial burden, and the network accepted a bid by Davenport, founder of SBC, to purchase 49% of the network. Two years later, he bought the remaining 51 % and relocated the headquarters to Pittsburgh and renamed it Sheridan Broadcasting Network (SBN). The network grew, boasting 91 affiliates and revenue of about $3 million annually. Despite its success, SBN was only slightly ahead of its rival network, NBN, with its 80 affiliates and annual earnings of about $2.5 million. However, in 1991, Sheridan partnered with NBN to form what is now known as American Urban Radio Networks (AURN). This partnership, at the time, was the biggest deal in the history of black radio. Moreover, it was at once the culmination of and a new chapter in a decades-old story of African-American entrepreneurs committed to forging a viable radio network company for African-American audiences.
Even in those days, long before American Urban Radio Networks truly got its legs, Co-Chairman Davenport says he could see the dream clearly and he knew that, from a business standpoint, the two networks together would be much stronger than either could ever be on its own. "I knew that if we had two urban networks, we would beat each other's brains out. I knew that we could not win a two-front war so either we would join together or we would both die."
After the 1991 partnership agreement, one of the orders of business was to change the company's name to American Urban Radio Networks.
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