Ms. Madison, who is black, has personal experience with the challenge of getting Comcast to distribute a black-owned network. Her family owns the Africa Channel, which Comcast has carried for more than a decade. The channel has lost subscribers in recent years, she said, despite Comcast’s assurances to help it grow.
Ms. Madison said she felt that Comcast had a duty to try to help the new black-owned networks succeed, because they were integral to the company’s gaining federal approval to acquire NBCUniversal. But at a time when streaming becomes dominant and cable operators are looking to shed channels, Ms. Madison said she believed Comcast executives would not blink if the black-owned networks went away.
“It’s laissez-faire,” Ms. Madison said of Comcast’s treatment of the channels. “It’s, ‘They want channels, we’ll give them channels.’”
Ms. Fitzmaurice, the spokeswoman, said that Comcast alone cannot be responsible for the ultimate success of the channels, which needed the buy-in of other cable providers. She also defended Comcast’s handling of the channels, saying, “We have fulfilled to the letter and beyond what we’ve promised to do.”
Comcast’s distribution of the black-owned networks varied widely. The company made Mr. Johnson’s Aspire network available to about three-quarters, or 15.5 million, of its subscribers in the second quarter of this year, according to estimates provided by Kagan, a media market research group within SP Global Market Intelligence. Mr. Combs’s Revolt was in about 45 percent, or 9.3 million, of Comcast households.
In his statement, Mr. Combs said that Comcast had not provided Revolt with the necessary support. The network is not included in Comcast’s most affordable packages or in the markets that would help it to reach its target audience, he added.
Marc H. Morial, the president of the National Urban League and a negotiator of the 2010 agreement, defended Comcast. The deal created opportunities for minorities at the company, Mr. Morial said, including three people of color joining its board and the company tripling its contracts with minority businesses.