NEW YORK – ABC News says that next month it will begin airing “Soul of a Nation,” which the network believes is the first prime-time broadcast newsmagazine focused on Black life in America.
The network has committed to six episodes that will air on consecutive Tuesday nights. No premiere date or time slot has been announced.
Each episode will be centered on a theme, such as spirituality, activism in sports and the racial reckoning triggered by George Floyd's death. Journalist Jemele Hill and actor Marsai Martin of “Black-ish” are among the guest hosts.
Besides stories by ABC News journalists, episodes will present a variety of voices including Carmelo Anthony, Nick Cannon, Danny Glover, David Alan Grier, John Ridley, Saweetie and Janaya Future Khan.
The network saw Black viewership soar last year during programming that explored the aftermath of Floyd's death and a two-hour “20/20” special on Breonna Taylor, said Marie Nelson, series creator and ABC News' senior vice president of integrated content strategy. ABC also did specials on Juneteenth and disparities involving race and class during the pandemic.
Still, at least half of the audience for several of these programs was white, she said. It illustrates the opportunity to both speak to a Black audience and educate others about what is going on in the community.
Each “Soul of a Nation” episode will feature an “in the kitchen” segment with familiar faces discussing current events and end with a musical or spoken word performance.
“We refer to the show oftentimes as a news-variety show,” Nelson said.
While only six episodes at first, Nelson said there's a possibility “Soul of a Nation” could be expanded in the future.
“As we produce these six hours, it's very clear to us every single day that it could be 600 hours of television,” she said.
This story has been corrected to show that the name of the series creator is Marie Nelson, not Marie Roberts.