Photo Credit: TN
New Black-Owned Roku Channel Brings More Diversity & Inclusion To The Media Industry With New Travel Series
After spending years working as a podcast coach and media consultant, Jackie ‘JP’ Phillips took a step outside of her comfort zone when she decided to step into the television streaming industry.
She’d had much success in the podcast space and her show Testimony Tuesday had become a viewer favorite online. When the show was picked up by a local television network in St. Louis, MO, someone on set suggested Phillips take her content to Roku.
“In my mind, I thought they were just saying take Testimony Tuesday and put it on Roku like on someone else platform and they were like ‘No you should really consider running a network yourself,’’ Phillips said.
In August 2021, Phillips launched Unheard TV as an official Roku channel. Despite having no experience running a network, she has grown the channel substantially since its launch and aims to continue filling the gap in the media industry by employing diverse talent and team members.
The channel has been streamed in over 30 countries and has grown by a minimum of 5 percent each month since last year. With a plethora of immersive and innovative show content created by independent creatives, Phillips believes Unheard TV will give a voice to those who otherwise wouldn’t be heard and provide skill-building opportunities for those looking to enter the media industry.
“I really wanted to work with people who were the unlikely faces and voices that you would see and so I decided to work with people who had literally no experience and the caveat to that is I don’t mind you not having experience but it has to be an educational component,” she said. “So once you become a part of the Unheard TV family, you not only get to be in front of the camera but we do workshops behind the camera so you can understand the whole business.”
Unheard TV is currently wrapping up its second season and will be adding a roster of new shows to the network as season three begins production. Original shows like Testimony Tuesday, The Intentional Woman Show, and That’s My Jam will return to the network as they add new content that will bring in a diverse viewership of all ages.
Although details are still in development, the network will be releasing a new, feedback-driven travel show that gives live reviews of resorts, hotels, and travel concierge services and immerses viewers in beautiful destinations around the world from the comfort of their homes. The show will also provide exclusive looks into some of the best travel destinations from different points of view, giving viewers a different perspective than most travel series.
“We’re looking to have different points of view for our travel show because most people and most shows right now that are travel-based are usually by women, which we definitely have in the works, but I would love a male point of view and views from the youth,” she said.
Phillips hopes the show will not only serve as an educational resource for those looking to explore the world but that it will also inspire more Black Americans to expose themselves and their children to different cultures and everything the world has to offer.
“I want people to see travel not as something we should be grateful to be able to do but to use it to educate ourselves and our children and that it’s our right to do it and we should do it,” she said.
Season three of Unheard TV will also bring experimentation with live audiences and collaborations on short feature films with independent filmmakers. The network will also be traveling internationally to film content with black creatives across the globe. Although the headquarters will remain in St. Louis, Unheard TV will be filming in 18 other locations including Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, London, and Africa. By working with undiscovered creatives globally and creating content that shines a light on gems within the black community, Phillips hopes Unheard TV will bring more diversity and inclusion into the media industry.
“This is about legacy for me,” she said. “This is about being able to truly change the lives of people who are going to be impacted for generations if we do this the right way.”
Although the majority of her team has no previous experience in television, Phillips is confident in the work they are doing and the impact they are making both in the states and abroad. While many enter the media industry for the glamor and fame that comes with the spotlight, Unheard TV is setting a new standard as a black-owned Roku network that is driven and inspired by the community it was birthed from.
“It’s bigger than just getting in front of the camera and smiling and delivering content,” she said. “This is literally a movement. It’s about changing the way we deliver content and we can build it so we’re sitting at the table from a different angle; we’re not always going and trying to prove value, we’re creating our value and putting it out to the world.”
Whereas some networks put a damper on Black, creative voices, Unheard TV is seeking out fresh talent that not only wants to build upon the channel’s legacy but also aspires to gain the knowledge needed to sustain their own.
“It’s important to be able to literally build your own and sustain your own,” she said. “You always hear about wanting a seat at the table and all of that. And that’s fine. But I still want my own table.”