LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A television network based in Little Rock and geared toward blacks is set to launch in the first quarter of 2012.

Soul of the South Network proposes to offer five hours a day of live daily news, as well as entertainment, sports and cultural programming.

Soul of the South Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Edwin V. Avent said the station would be on digital substations in at least 50 markets across the South and in northern cities with large black populations.

When TV stations converted to digital broadcasting in 2009, it allowed them to create substations, tripling the number of stations available without cable or satellite. Avent said that has allowed him the opportunity to start a niche network.

Soul of the South will be part of a growing number of networks aimed at black viewers, including BET, also known as Black Entertainment Television, which can be found on cable and satellite. Bounce

TV, which launched in

September on different digital substations, offers movies and other programs.

“We believe that the African-American population throughout the South has been underserved,” Avent said. “A large part of our broadcast is focused on the local markets.”

He said the startup budget is about $10 million, which will go toward producing content, purchasing rights from major studios and establishing networks across the region and elsewhere.

Avent said he picked Little Rock because he wanted to purchase equipment from defunct Equity Media Holdings, a Little Rock-based broadcasting company that went bankrupt in 2008.

Avent's concept has doubters.

Alan Gould, a media and entertainment analyst with New York City-based Evercore Partners, said there are hundreds of programs on cable and satellite, and thousands of options on Netflix, on demand, on Amazon and other media.

“It's tough to create a new niche,” he added. “You already have BET and (Bounce TV) … The question is how it's going to differentiate itself.'”

In buying Equity's equipment, Soul of the South proposes to reach 80 markets at once through a centralized satellite system. The company also hopes cable providers such as Comcast or Time Warner, will pick up Soul of the South.

The network schedule would include a morning news show based in Atlanta, an evening news broadcast, and a news and opinion show focusing on Southern capitals and politics. It would also show college sports from black colleges throughout the South.

Photo: Edwin V. Avent