Black Entertainment Television — a service long criticized for its heavy reliance on music videos — will slate a 2002 fall season that features the most non-music video programming in the network's history.
The network's 2002-03 lineup, in fact, is split almost evenly between video programming and originally produced or acquired fare, and its nightly primetime lineup won't include any music videos, according to officials.
"A couple of years ago, we had been doing hour or two-hour blocks of [music] shows," said BET executive vice president of entertainment programming and network operations Curtis Gadson. "Now, every half hour in primetime is basically different, and not music-related."
Anchoring the new season are episodes from several returning shows that were taped in cities across the U.S. As part of last summer's six-city "Black Star Power Tour"— a grass-roots effort to reach out to BET's predominantly African-American viewers — the network taped episodes of 106 & Park, Comic View
and Bobby Jones Gospel
on the road.
The network also taped segments for its Teen Summit, BET Nightly News
and BET Tonight With Ed Gordon
in selected cities along the tour run.
Gadson said the network had produced so much content from the various locales that it postponed stops in St. Louis and Philadelphia until next summer.
"Our strategy was to take our existing shows back to the street," Gadson said. "We generated a lot of ideas for our shows by talking to our viewers."
BET's grassroots strategy is also reflected in its two new original series: Hollah, a weekly talk show series that focuses on everyday issues hosted by political satirist and comedienne Sheryl Underwood; and Turnstyle, which chronicles the turning points that made a difference in the lives of ordinary, successful people.
Both shows embody the network's desire to reflect and reach out to its core audience, Gadson said.
The two shows join returning sophomore originals How I'm Living, NYLA
and The Way We Do It, Gadson said.
Along with its original series, the network will continue to air three acquired movies per week in primetime. It will also continue to develop special-event programming, including its ratings-rich annuals, BET Walk of Fame
and the BET Awards.
The network will also build on its expanding slate of news and public-affairs programming, forged from a co-production agreement with sister Viacom Inc. entity CBS News.
BET will return the public-affairs show Lead Story, the late-night news program BET Tonight With Ed Gordon
and BET Nightly News
to its lineup. The network has also renewed Teen Summit, which will morph from an audience-based show dealing with teen issues to more of a newsmagazine set-up, network officials said.