Aug 22, 2023

Byron Allen Thinks Big

As Byron Allen's ALLEN MEDIA GROUP (AMG) celebrates its 30th anniversary, the global media company is well positioned for the future, and the future is best-in-class technology.

By Nicole Ortiz

Big thinkers get big things done and implement change in their industries, and ALLEN MEDIA GROUP Founder/Chairman/CEO Byron Allen is living proof of that.

Allen’s list of "firsts" is impressive. Starting at age 14, he was the youngest comedy writer for some of the biggest names in stand-up comedy during the 1970s, working alongside young comedians like David Letterman and Jay Leno. At age 18, he was the youngest stand-up comedian to perform on THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON.  He then landed a co-hosting role on television's first “reality” show, NBC’s REAL PEOPLE, in 1979, and that's long before he built what is now one of the largest privately held media companies in the world. 


Byron Allen’s comedy background makes him a strong and unique media leader. He's been there and he's done that. He can see around corners and anticipate seismic shifts in our business long before they start rumbling.  What other media executive has been at the helm of the same company for 30 consecutive years?  That’s the uniqueness of this stand-up comedian turned MEDIA MOGUL - as Bloomberg called him in 2021.  From traveling all over the country as a teenage host, interviewing "real people", to learning about the TV business and forging relationships with local TV station general managers at the same time. Those experiences put him in the driver's seat - even when he was starting his company from his dining room table in 1993. Humble beginnings, a big vision and a relentless work ethic have led to many successful milestones.  

Allen’s major foray into television ownership and production was launching his nationally-syndicated television program, the one-hour weekly celebrity interview show ENTERTAINERS WITH BYRON, which is still on the air 30 years later! Allen sold the show by sitting at his dining room table for over a year and pitching all 1,200 commercial television stations nationwide multiple times, and working through 50,000 “NOs” to get 150 “YESes” to achieve a station lineup. Allen then began aggressively producing additional syndicated lifestyle programming including travel shows, cooking shows, car shows, and more. He then created and launched the comedy talk show COMICS UNLEASHED WITH BYRON ALLEN, the industry's longest-running syndicated late-night comedy talk show which has helped launch the careers of literally hundreds of standup comedians. 


In May of 2009, Allen, an Emmy Award-winning creator and executive producer, became the first to launch six cable television networks on the same day, in an unprecedented deal with VERIZON.  The initial six networks -- COMEDY.TV, PETS.TV, CARS.TV, RECIPE.TV, ES.TV, and MYDESTINATION.TV -- now reach over 110 million subscribers.

He's been inducted into the BROADCAST HALL OF FAME; he's been honored with a star on THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME; and in the summer of 2017 his self-distributed motion picture, 47 METERS DOWN, was the highest-grossing independent film at the box office. After acquiring THE WEATHER CHANNEL in 2018, Allen Media Group became the first and only Black-owned media company to own a mainstream news network. The iconic network has now spawned America’s first and only 24-hour Spanish language weather network, THE WEATHER CHANNEL EN ESPANOL. “I started THE WEATHER CHANNEL EN ESPANOL, because I didn’t want language to be a barrier to receiving lifesaving information,” says Allen.

In recent years, Allen has purchased 27 local broadcast stations across 21 U.S. markets while also expanding his ALLEN MEDIA GROUP NETWORKS portfolio to include a slew of new content, venturing further into the streaming space. Allen has invested more than 1.2 billion dollars to build ALLEN MEDIA GROUP BROADCASTING, and he's not done yet. Allen has aspirations to purchase even more Big Four (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) network affiliates to continue delivering robust local news and content. “Local TV stations have been forgotten in many ways,” says 2019’s Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Famer. “The networks are turning to streaming and have relegated the local broadcasters to a second position. We don’t do that.  Allen Media Group is broadcaster-friendly and is looking for ways to expand and increase the opportunities for local television stations and local news.”  

Further, while the whole television industry has been stuck in “analysis paralysis” as Allen calls it, and staying the course of using only Nielsen data, AMG is the first again to take the plunge in making an historic move that sparked an industrywide change.  Allen and his team have moved on from Nielsen and shifted its audience measurement to VideoAmp. This is a game-changing event that has not occurred in over 60 years.

In everything the company delivers, due to its founder’s background in entertainment and standup comedy, all AMG properties take an audience-first approach.

“When you stand on a stage and you perform in front of a live audience and you get a reaction every five seconds — or you don’t — that is the best training that you could possibly have in the media business,” Allen says. “You have to gain a really good sense of how the audience thinks, how they feel and what they will respond to. That's been extremely helpful to me to figure out what's next for audiences… anticipating their needs and understanding how to give them what they want.”

As owner of one of the largest privately-held media and technology companies, Allen’s presence in the industry is not something he takes for granted. He’s worked relentlessly through more than his fair share of adversity to build his company. Byron Allen knows how important it is to younger people of color with similar career aspirations in the technology, media, and entertainment realm to see what perseverance can accomplish.

After watching his mother’s determination and career ambitions — from moving to Los Angeles from Detroit as a single mother with Byron as a young child, to graduating with a Master’s Degree in Cinema & TV Production from UCLA, to convincing NBC to create an non-paying internship program after they said there were no jobs available for her — it only makes sense that Allen embodies a similar level of resolution and self-sufficiency that will not be denied.

Allen Media Group is working to put money back into the underserved communities with initiatives like HBCU GO SPORTS. Allen’s recent purchase of HBCU GO covers all things sports from America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Now Byron Allen is distributing and amplifying HBCU GO sports on broadcast, cable, and digital platforms worldwide. “Sports is like another religion in America, and these young students are finally getting their long overdue day in the spotlight,” said Allen. “Monetizing these HBCU games will help educate our children, and at the same time is a great business for our advertising and distribution partners.”  

AMG has extended the reach and audience for theGrio Television Network to 90+ percent of all U.S. households, and is now the home for several special events such as “Byron Allen Presents: The Washington D.C. Gala” which is a very successful afterparty event for the prestigious White House Correspondents Dinner, and “theGRIO AWARDS” which annually celebrates Black excellence in American culture. This award show also airs on CBS network. 


Today, Allen Media Group employees approximately 2,500 people nationwide. His employees are who Allen values most.  While he is a devoted family man whose wife, Jennifer Lucas, is also a TV producer and mom to their three kids, Allen works hard to shelter and nurture his team. When many of the big entertainment companies were laying people off during the pandemic, AMG did not lay off a single employee. Today, with 73 television shows currently on the air, Allen Media Group has more first-run syndicated series than all the other studios combined.

Allen also helps people in need. Every Oscar night, Byron Allen presents his annual OSCAR GALA in Beverly Hills to benefit CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL LOS ANGELES.  Over the years, Allen has raised millions for that charity which helped him and his mother when he was a little boy and could not afford the medical bills. Allen now sits on the Board of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and quietly gives back as he builds his growing media empire.

Byron Allen’s passion and commitment is to help the world achieve one America and one planet by pursuing his vision of what he calls the Five Es:
#1 Education – making sure everyone gets a great education. #2 Equal justice for all.  #3 Economic Inclusion – real economic opportunity for everyone. #4 Environmental Protection – a safe, clean, and healthy planet for everyone. #5 Empathy – as the human race, we must all come together to truly address the mental health crisis, food insecurity, and homelessness.

Going Green

In a world where heat records are being set and broken almost daily, and natural disasters are occurring with increased frequency and intensity, Allen recognizes climate change and global warming as the biggest threat to humankind today.

Through The Weather Channel’s Pattrn digital platform, viewers can see daily stories on how the environment is changing and learn more information on how to protect and fight for climate justice. Again, Byron Allen doesn’t just “talk” about climate change.  He wants action and climate change solutions to be the topic everyone talks about. 
For eleven consecutive years, The Weather Channel has been voted the most trusted news brand in America, and the ninth most-trusted brand overall. The importance of this platform has not been lost on Byron Allen.

“Unfortunately, we lose approximately 5 million people per year due to climate change and global warming, and we must all come together to stop one of our biggest threats,” Allen says. “The Weather Channel is one of the best platforms to help effectuate this necessary change.”

A Bright Technology Future

Through The Weather Channel, AMG also utilizes its three-time Emmy Award-winning proprietary Immersive Mixed Reality (IMR) technology, which adds dimension and virtual immersion to how the channel tells weather-related stories over the course of 24 hours. Basically, IMR puts the on-camera meteorologist “inside” the weather. 

Allen Media Group’s free-streaming app Local Now just bested streaming giants TUBI, Disney’s HULU, and Paramount+ when it was designated “Best Streaming Service” by Digiday's Video and TV Awards in 2023. By geofencing viewers’ ZIP codes, the Local Now free-streaming app curates and delivers hyper-local news, weather, sports, traffic, entertainment and more across 230 markets in the U.S. The app also works in conjunction with hundreds of local television stations that provide local news.

Looking at AMG’s 30 years in business is nothing short of impressive. It started with a young boy who wanted to make people laugh. It grew with a man who drew from his stand-up comedy background to navigate the entertainment and media industry. It's those roots in comedy that make Allen truly a unique visionary. He's a disruptor with a purpose.  When asked what his goal is, Byron Allen answers quickly and confidently: "Our mission is to build the world’s biggest media company and help to effectuate change for the greater good. We want to use media to unite us as one, and bring out the best in all of us."