Los Angeles native Melissa Ingram is the current SVP of Multicultural Networks and Strategy at UP Entertainment. She is a graduate of the all women HBCU, Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English, magna cum laude, and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law earning a Juris Doctorate (J.D).
“Growing up, I always knew what I wanted to do with my life.” “I wanted to go to Spelman, study English and go to Law School.” “I also knew I wanted to be an Entertainment Lawyer,” said Melissa.
In 2004 he started her career as an associate lawyer at Atlanta’s Alston & Bird, LLP and in 2006 advanced her career as an associate lawyer at The Carter Law Firm, PC also in Atlanta where she handled various entertainment contracts. During this time Melissa went on to consult for the Gospel Music Channel which is now UP Entertainment, LLC.
Ingram joined AspireTV from its sister-network UPtv, where she was Senior Counsel of Business and Legal Affairs, serving as lead counsel and negotiator for programming acquisition agreements. In August 2012 she started her role as Senior Counsel, Business and Legal Affairs at AspireTV, and was promoted to Senior Director of Business Affairs and Development in December 2014. She was appointed by Magic Johnson Enterprises (who launched AspireTV in 2012) as the head of the network in 2016. In 2019 UP Entertainment acquired AspireTV and Magic Johnson divested ownership, which led to Melissa’s role evolving to beyond AspireTV as one of UP Entertainment’s top executives.
“I am a very spiritual person—I truly believe that it was God’s plan for me to be where I am today.”
“I read a McKinsey & Company study that reported Hollywood leaves 10 billion dollars a year on the table from undervaluing and under-funding Black-led projects,” states Ingram.
“At AspireTV we have a promise, #seeyourselfhere and that applies to our on screen programming and behind the scenes.”
In her role as SVP of Multicultural Networks and Strategy at UP Entertainment, Melissa is responsible for driving the growth and success of AspireTV, Cine Romántico and other multicultural brands from UP Entertainment across all distribution platforms. Keeping her Spelman roots in mind and starting with Melissa at the helm, AspireTV is run entirely by female executive leadership. An impressive achievement considering an IBM study that reports— there are fewer women that hold the titles SVP, VP, Director and Manager in 2021 than did in 2019.
As a member of the executive team, Melissa provides guidance and develops strategies on how to best serve multicultural audiences for all UP Entertainment brands. She is a champion for fostering a winning and diverse work environment.
“You can’t attract the Black audience without representation on screen and within the Company—our team and employees reflect that,” says Ingram. With her leadership, AspireTV has emerged as a premium lifestyle content brand targeting the Black Millennial audience. In Viant’s 2020 research paper The Marketer’s Guide to African-American Millennials, African-American Millennials overwhelmingly support TV shows and networks that feature celebrities who share their ethnic background. Melissa attributes her leadership success to her experience as a Black woman, HBCU graduate and member of The Links, Incorporated and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
“The work that I am doing at UP Entertainment and AspireTV is bigger than me, but it does not stop with me.”
Eat, Live, Shop, Play and Dream
“Aspire was created nine years ago. We wanted to change the way in which the Black audience sees themselves.” “Aspire was created to celebrate and share the modern Black and urban lifestyle experience.”
According to a Think with Google survey 3 out of 4 Black Millenials say they’re more likely to consider a brand that positively reflects black culture. Keeping her finger on the pulse of growing demands, Melissa was able to strategically project and reinforce with data the desire for luxury and premium lifestyle content from Black Millennials.
“To be happy and have pride in the Black experience is a form of protest and AspireTV really wants to be at the forefront and own that space.”
Aspire TV is defined by five core principles: Eat, Live, Shop, Play and Dream. All of AspireTV’s dynamic programming falls within one of those five disciplines.
Butter+Brown is a breakout cooking show that was on for three seasons, produced by Issa Rae and Chef G. Garvin. The Butter+Brown creators and hosts Seth Brundle and Leslie Antonoff elevate everyday meals paired with signature cocktails.
G. Garvin Live is the highly anticipated cooking experience by author, restaurateur, and Chef G. Garvin.
Live Your Life.
Just Angela is a lifestyle series getting to know Angela Simmons.
Side by Side with Malika and Kahadijah follows the pair’s journey through life, sisterhood and motherhood.
Unboxed with Nikki Chu is a design series where celebrity designer Nikki Chu helps transform
spaces by having fans choose between two different boxes containing a curated set of “inspiration elements” of a design style such as Old Hollywood Glam or Boho Chic.
Aspire TV will also be premiering a new home makeover series at the beginning of the year.
Shop with Purpose.
In 2018, AspireTV, spearheaded by Ingram, launched Aspire MKTPLC to encourage shoppers to “shop with purpose.” Aspire MKTPLC is an online marketplace curated with Black owned business and products. The Marketplace platform generates 3.8 million impressions monthly and has featured 60 vendors including beauty & beards, home living, style, eats and kids.
Work Hard. Play Hard.
AspireTV is home to CIAA live sports plus exclusive lifestyle content from HBCUs.
HBCU 101 is an upcoming series that will interview HBCU alumni, students and campus leaders to highlight HBCU culture and institutions.
Urban Indie Film Block is showcasing the next generation of Black filmmakers. The series features short films that depict a wide array of genres such as romantic comedies, drama, action and sci-fi. More than 150+ BIPOC creatives have been given a platform through Dream.
Under Melissa’s direction, the network has made partnerships that bring awareness to Black film and shows along with expanding its reach to Black viewers.
“I’m proud to say that we are the home for CIAA live sports.” says Ingram.” “You can watch live sports and HBCU lifestyle programs on AspireTV.” Through our partnership with the CIAA and the producers of HBCU 101, No Huddle and Fast Break, AspireTV highlights the rich legacy and history of HBCUs and their students.
“We have a partnership with Damn Write Originals and Nakia Stephens that has led to the creation of seven original short films for AspireTV.” Damn Write Originals is a leading independent screenwriting label based in Los Angeles and Atlanta. It is responsible for popular short films HIStory and Endangered which are exclusively on the network. Through this partnership, the network has impacted over 200+ BIPOC creatives.
Earlier this year, Comcast and AspireTV announced an expansion into 12 new Xfinity markets nationwide which will bring the network to millions of new customers and licensing deals. Currently, AspireTV is available in the top 25 African American markets including New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
“With everything that has happened with Covid 19, we are at a pivotal point where people are demanding more feel good content,” said Ingram. “We have Aspire MKTPLC where we are connecting people with Black Owned businesses and in the future hope to get into podcasts.”
Melissa’s vision to authentically portray Black culture and lifestyle content has greatly impacted the network’s current success and her ability to identify programming demands from Black Millenials will contribute to AspireTV’s future.
“Not only do we want to help cultivate the next generation of Black creatives, we want to help spin the narrative on what the Black experience is and the content we want to represent us.”
“I want this brand to live wherever our audience is.” “Where Black culture lives, so will AspireTV.”
You can tune in and watch all of the above-mentioned programming exclusively on AspireTV. Learn more at aspire.tv.