BET will take a two-headed executive approach to content development, having named former MTV programming executive Loretha Jones and network veteran Stephen Hill co-president of programming.
The appointment of Jones and Hill comes two months after the dismissal of BET Entertainment president Reginald Hudlin from the head programming spot. Both Jones, who will be based in Los Angeles, and Hill, who will remain in New York, will report directly to BET chairman and CEO Debra Lee.
Jones will be charged with overseeing the development of original programming, news, planning and acquisitions for the African-American targeted network. Most recently executive vice president of MTV Films/Paramount Pictures, Jones served as producer of such shows as the Robert Townsend sitcom The Parent 'Hood and theatrical movies The Fighting Temptations, The Meteor Man and The Five Heartbeats, as well as the MTV original film Carmen: A Hip Hopera.
“Her primary focus is creating new content for BET, whether that's reality or scripted series, and I think she'll be great at that,” Lee told Multichannel News. “She's very well-respected in the creative community, she's been in the Viacom family for a while and the sensibility she brought to MTV films shows that she has great creative instincts.”
Hill will oversee all music programming and specials for the network, including the network's signature BET Awards show and its daily music-video series 106 & Park. Hill, formerly executive vice president of music programming & talent for BET, also oversees BET network specials Spring Bling and Rip the Runway.
“Because of Steven's experience and expertise on the music side — our specials are really tentpoles for the network, we felt it made sense to split it up,” she said. “But I told them that the key is they have to work and collaborate together.”
The two will look to turn around BET's primetime ratings fortunes. While the network has had several breakout hits under Hudlin's reign — such as Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is, which drew nearly 2 million viewers in its third season debut Nov. 11 — the network averaged a flat 0.6 primetime rating and 626,000 total viewers for the third quarter of 2008.
“This is a tough job — we do so many different things, and there aren't a lot of African-Americans who've had the opportunity to run a network that does as many different things as we do,” Lee said. “That's why I think the two of them bring the right mix of skills and originality to the table.”
One show that they may or may not have to work on is Somebodies, the network's first scripted series. Lee says BET has not made a renewal decision regarding the show, which follows a group of college friends. It drew only 600,000 viewers for its six-episode run that ended in October.
“It didn't do as well in the ratings as I would I have liked, but we are very committed to scripted and we'll continue to do it,” said Lee.