Byron Allen (Folks) is an American businessman, television producer, and comedian born in Detroit, Michigan, on April 22, 1961. His media company, Entertainment Studios, owns assets in television production, broadcasting, film production, and digital media.
Byron Allen Folks was born in Detroit to Carolyn and Alvin Folks. After the couple divorced in 1968, Byron and his mother moved to Los Angeles. Carolyn became a publicist for NBC Studios, and Byron spent his after-school hours watching TV show production and mingling with personalities like Redd Foxx, Flip Wilson, and Freddie Prinze.
He began performing stand-up comedy at age 14. He was discovered by Jimmie Walker (of the hit TV show “Good Times”) and invited to join a writing team with then-young comedians Jay Leno and David Letterman. At 18, Allen made his television debut on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, becoming the youngest comedian to ever perform on that show. At the same time, Allen attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles and the University of Southern California.
Allen soon became a host for NBC’s Real People, one of the first reality shows. In 1988, he co-wrote and co-starred in the CBS television film Case Closed. He hosted the late-night talk show The Byron Allen Show from 1989 to 1992 and toured as an opening act for musicians such as Dolly Parton, Gladys Knight, Lionel Richie, and The Pointer Sisters. Allen says he never stopped being a comedian but learned the importance of “business show” over “show business.”
In 1993, Allen established a production company known as CF Entertainment. Its first program was the syndicated talk show titled Entertainers with Byron Allen, featuring celebrity interviews. Allen distributed the program to stations at no cost, with revenue sharing on advertising sales. The business model was initially unsuccessful, resulting in Allen’s home facing multiple foreclosures and, at one point, losing telephone service. Eventually, Allen launched the show, which continues in syndication.
The company was renamed Entertainment Studios in 2003 and has grown through a series of acquisitions, including film distributor Freestyle Releasing, TheGrio, HBCU GO, The Weather Channel, an equity stake in Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of the Fox Sports Networks, and more than two dozen ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox network affiliate television stations. In 2022, the company was valued at over $4.5 billion.
Allen has also pursued his business interests in court, describing his litigation against McDonald’s and the Comcast and Charter cable networks as being in the service of economic inclusion. Allen has expressed his determination to promote Black ownership of media companies. “Blacks need to both be on the camera and own the camera.”
In 2022, Allen was unsuccessful in his bid to buy the Denver Broncos of the National Football League. Allen is prepared to bid on another NFL team, saying, “Blacks both need to play the game and own the game.”
Allen married TV producer Jennifer Lucas in 2007. The couple has three children and owns homes in Aspen, Colorado; Maui, Hawaii; Beverly Hills, California; and New York City.