Entertainment Studios, a media company owned by African American entrepreneur Byron Allen, owns and operates 12 high-definition television networks that are carried by over 60 multi-channel video programming distributors, including Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, Charter/Spectrum, DISH Network, DirecTV, AT&T Now, and Verizon FIOS. These networks feature lifestyle content with general audience appeal and are widely distributed to over 180 million cumulative subscribers in all 50 states. In 2018, Allen acquired Weather Group, which owns and operates the award-winning cable news network The Weather Channel and the streaming service Local Now.
McDonald’s is the world’s leading global food service retailer with over 39,000 locations that generate over $100 billion in annual revenue. African Americans represent approximately 40% of McDonald’s U.S. sales, with McDonald’s taking billions of dollars each year from African American consumers. But of its approximately $1.6 billion annual television advertising budget, McDonald’s spends less than approximately $5 million each year on African American-owned media, and it has refused to advertise on Entertainment Studios networks or The Weather Channel since Allen acquired the network in 2018. Per the lawsuit, the McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempczinski makes approximately $11 million per year, which is more than double what McDonald’s spends per year on ALL of Black-owned media combined.
The lawsuit alleges that McDonald’s refusal to contract is the result of racial stereotyping through McDonald’s tiered advertising structure that differentiates on the basis of race. The primary advertising tier for McDonald’s is referred to as “general market” and it constitutes the vast majority of McDonald’s advertising budget. McDonald’s, however, created a separate “African American” tier with a much smaller budget and less-favorable pricing and other terms. McDonald’s contracts with a separate ad agency (Burrell Communications) for this African American tier, thereby creating separate and unequal tracks for Black-owned media companies to earn advertising revenue. McDonald’s has created a discriminatory environment that is separate but not equal.
According to the lawsuit, McDonald’s relegated Entertainment Studios to the less-favorable African American tier even though the companies own and operate television networks that have general market appeal and do not specifically target African American audiences. McDonald’s does so because the companies are owned by Allen, an African American. Through this stereotyping, McDonald’s prevented Entertainment Studios and Weather Group from accessing McDonald’s general market advertising budget and deprived the companies of advertising revenue that otherwise would have been paid if McDonald’s treated the companies the same as similarly situated, white-owned companies.
“This is about economic inclusion of African American-owned businesses in the U.S. economy,” said Byron Allen, Founder/Chairman/CEO of Allen Media Group. “McDonald’s takes billions from African American consumers and gives almost nothing back. The biggest trade deficit in America is the trade deficit between White corporate America and Black America, and McDonald’s is guilty of perpetuating this disparity. The economic exclusion must stop immediately.”
“As alleged in the complaint, McDonald’s has engaged in pernicious racial discrimination in violation of federal and state law,” said counsel for Mr. Allen and his companies, Skip Miller, partner in Miller Barondess, LLP. “I am confident the jury will recognize the injustice that has occurred here and award significant damages. We are looking forward to our day in court.”
About Allen Media Group / Entertainment Studios
Chairman and CEO Byron Allen founded Allen Media Group/Entertainment Studios in 1993. Headquartered in Los Angeles, it has offices in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Raleigh. Allen Media Group owns 23 ABC-NBC-CBS-FOX network affiliate broadcast television stations in 19 U.S. markets and twelve 24-hour HD television networks serving nearly 180 million subscribers: THE WEATHER CHANNEL, PETS.TV, COMEDY.TV, RECIPE.TV, CARS.TV, ES.TV, MYDESTINATION.TV, JUSTICE CENTRAL.TV, THEGRIO.TV, THIS TV, LOCAL NOW TV, and PATTRN. Allen Media Group will add its thirteenth network, THE WEATHER CHANNEL EN ESPANOL in 2021. Allen Media Group also owns LOCAL NOW and THE GRIO free-streaming AVOD services, powered by THE WEATHER CHANNEL and content partners, which delivers real-time, hyper-local news, weather, traffic, sports, and lifestyle information. Allen Media Group also produces, distributes, and sells advertising for 67 television programs, making it one of the largest independent producers/distributors of first-run syndicated television programming for broadcast television stations. Allen Media Group International Television continues to extend its corporate branding and content around the globe. It currently has active license agreements and programming in South Africa, The United Arab Emirates, Australia, The Bahamas, Canada and New Zealand. With a library of over 5,000 hours of owned content across multiple genres, Allen Media Group provides video content to broadcast television stations, cable television networks, mobile devices, multimedia platforms, and the World Wide Web. Our mission is to provide excellent programming to our viewers, online users, and Fortune 500 advertising partners.
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures is a full-service, theatrical motion picture distribution company specializing in wide release commercial content. ESMP released 2017’s highest-grossing independent movie, the shark thriller 47 METERS DOWN, which grossed over $44.3 million. In 2018, ESMP also released the critically-acclaimed and commercially successful Western HOSTILES, the historic mystery-thriller CHAPPAQUIDDICK and the sequel to 47 METERS DOWN, 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED. The digital distribution unit of Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures, Freestyle Digital Media, is a premiere multi-platform distributor with direct partnerships across all major cable, digital and streaming platforms. Capitalizing on a robust infrastructure, proven track record and a veteran sales team, Freestyle Digital Media is a true home for independent films.
In 2016, Allen Media Group purchased The Grio, a highly-rated digital video-centric news community platform devoted to providing African-Americans with compelling stories and perspectives currently underrepresented in existing national news outlets. The Grio features aggregated and original video packages, news articles and opinion pieces on topics that include breaking news, politics, health, business and entertainment. Originally launched in 2009, the platform was then purchased by NBC News in 2010. The digital platform remains focused on curating exciting digital content and currently has more than 100 million annual visitors.
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SOURCE Allen Media Group