Hudlin’s Results Have BET Looking Up

7/14/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

Pasadena, Calif.— After a year on the job, Black Entertainment Television president of entertainment Reginald Hudlin has helped the network achieve record ratings performances among African-American households.

And at last week’s Television Critics Association Tour presentation, his lineup of upcoming original reality programming might finally have convinced TV writers there’s more to BET than just music videos.

“This is what I wanted … to have a TCA presentation that was all about programming and not what’s your competition doing or why aren’t you doing this or that,” BET Networks chairman and CEO Debra Lee said. “It was all about the programming.”

Instead of critiquing a music-video laden schedule or citing competition from upstart networks TV One and Black Family Channel, as in years past, the TCA questions were about original reality series like Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is, profiling the up-and-coming R&B music star, and Next Level: Vince Young, trailing the former University of Texas quarterback as he heads to the pros.

BET’s 0.6 primetime household rating was flat during second-quarter 2006. But the 0.74 primetime rating for the 2005-06 season (October 2005 through July 2006) is up 9% over the same period in 2004-05.

Credit goes to Hudlin-developed original series like ’Lil Kim: Countdown to Lockdown, which averaged a network series record 1.3 million viewers over six episodes, and the June BET Awards show, which generated 6.6 million viewers. This year’s show, with performances from Cole and Prince, drew an all-time African-American cable audience rating of 31.94, according to BET.

With an increased budget for original shows, Hudlin plans to create and launch at least one scripted series — and a handful of original movies — as early as next year. BET also could greenlight an animated show for late 2007 or early 2008 (Hudlin executive produced The Boondocks for Adult Swim). It’s looking at developing proprietary programming for the BET Blast broadband-video Internet site for a potential 2006 launch.

“We’re going to flip the script so hard in 2007 that people will be shocked as to what we’ll do going forward,” he said.