Company: African Heritage Network
Year Started: 1993
Start-Up Costs: $375,000
1997 Projections: $10 million
It's official: Frank Mercado-Valdes is a media mogul. When Universal Domestic Television sold Mercado-Valdes the weekend syndication rights to its popular TV drama series "New York Undercover," it became the first time in the history of broadcasting that a minority-owned company purchased a network series for syndication. "Rarely does a company like Universal sell syndication rights to any third party," Mercado-Valdes says. "This was a big company recognizing that a small company's strength was ideally suited to help them maximize revenues."
The strength Mercado-Valdes is speaking of is his New York City company's focus: He licenses feature films with black actors and themes and packages them for local TV stations, targeting the black TV audience for advertisers.
Mercado-Valdes first became interested in media programming while in college. He had started the Miss Collegiate African-American Pageant, and someone suggested it had potential for television. In 1990, the pageant became his first nationally syndicated show. "Through this event," he says, "I began to realize the economics of ethnic markets."
Mercado-Valdes is currently negotiating to start his own cable network and a studio that will produce black films and black soundtracks. "I'm not at liberty to tell you [the details about the deals]," he says, "but they're pretty big." Spoken like a true media mogul.