BET Retunes BET on Jazz

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In an effort to broaden its format and audience, Black Entertainment Television will reposition its BET on Jazz network to offer more musical rhythms and long-form entertainment programming.

The rebranded BET J network will debut March 1 with a new DirecTV Inc. distribution deal, putting the network in more than 20 million homes, according to network executive vice president and general manger Paxton Baker.

While BET J will continue to offer classic jazz-music videos, concert and artist-profile programming throughout the week, the network will switch tunes and program mostly Caribbean-based music programming on Saturdays and more smooth jazz and neo soul programming, featuring artists like Erika Badu and Jill Scott, on Sundays.

In terms of long-form entertainment fare, the network in March will launch a “Black Filmmaker’s Showcase” on Tuesdays and Thursdays in primetime, spotlighting short projects from up-and-coming moviemakers.

The network also wants to create a tent-pole event on the level of the BET Awards to further build the brand and generate viewership, according to Baker. In addition, BET J will look to create documentaries and other entertainment-based programming that chronicles the African-American experience beyond music.

“The J stands not only for jazz, but it is also to showcase the complete African-American journey,” he said. “We want to bring in more black culture programming to the channel.”

The network is hoping to lure 30-something viewers who may be too old for the younger-skewing BET and too young to enjoy older-targeted content from competitor TV One.

BET J hopes the change will increase distribution for the service. BET on Jazz has deals with such operators as Cablevision Systems Corp. and Time Warner Cable. The direct-broadcast satellite carriage stems from the far-reaching DirecTV/Viacom Inc. deal that was reached last year.

For more on BET J, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page 14 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.