What Marzan and his team learned when they started development of an over-the-top (OTT) service nearly three years ago, was that while there is a strong surge in multicultural consumption of streaming content, there is a lack of content options specific to these consumers. AfroLife will offer a media destination for consumers of color blending classic, popular, emerging and independent content.
“My goal is to perpetuate a different mindset throughout AfroLife,” says Marzan. “We’re not here to see if it works, rather we are focused on building immediate impact and creating sustainability for our service.” With the recent success of television shows and movies featuring people of color, market research supports the company’s vision of a streaming future. To date, others are vested in that vision as well.
This whirlwind existence isn’t new to this business leader, who in 2004 was recognized as one of the nation’s most outstanding businessmen by Forbes Magazine. He has been engaged in media, marketing, and enterprise innovation both nationally and internationally for more than 20 years. His long-term goal is to build a global corporation that has an immediate impact but is also sustainable. The AfroLife tagline – Connect. Contribute. Communicate – provides a good indicator of the community Marzan is hoping to build at AfroLife. “We are building a destination for people to connect over content,” he says, explaining how an AfroLife consumer in the UK can connect, through the site’s ecosystem, with a consumer in Los Angeles, sharing their experiences across the platform.
“In my experience with Alberto, I have seen him navigate this (entrepreneurial) journey while avoiding crippling landmines, and I cannot be more enthusiastic about the launch of AfroLife,” says David Porter, executive director of Walter Kaitz Foundation and advisory board member at Press Media Group and AfroLife. “The industry, our community and the world needs what AfroLife has to offer.”
There is a three-tier programming mix at AfroLife. Tier 1 is 40% theatrical releases, what Marzan refers to as the “beautiful stuff we’re starving for as a community.” He is working with big distribution houses like Sony and Paramount to bring important titles like the Oscar-nominated Mudbound and Oscar-winning Hidden Figures to the service; Tier 2 programming includes television staples like In Living Color and Martin that the audience likely grew up on; Tier 3 includes original content that Marzan says is designed to change the narrative about people of color, women, and the LGBT community. AfroLife is now a partner with Google and will be co-producing their original series GodComplX, designed to create more favorable perceptions of computer science with characters that are more inclusive. One planned byproduct of the series is to encourage an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) among diverse viewers.
The impetus to give back is woven into AfroLife’s DNA. Marzan social impact has been manifested through his work with various charities including Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America, The Council to Combat Teen Cruelty and the International Children’s Heart Foundation, where he served as CEO. This showcase of STEM is another way to impact the community AfroLife is bringing together.
The service retails for $9.95 per month and those who sign up at launch get a 50% discount. Marzan’s plans for the network continue to grow and expand include working with the NFL, Warner Bros studios and perhaps Facebook (he was headed to a meeting there on the day of this interview). Music and audio books will also be offered on AfroLife and there are plans for international distribution to include opening satellite offices in London and Lagos later this year and in 2019 respectively.
“I’m laser-focused on building a global corporation, not playing entrepreneur,” Marzan concludes. “It’s been an interesting journey which I am built for and the company has learned how to be more and more resilient throughout this journey for which I am forever grateful.”