Black Entertainment Television has joined the growing list
of basic-cable networks producing made-for-TV movies, striking a deal last week to create
10 such films based on African-American romance novels from publishing house Arabesque.
BET has reached an agreement for producer-director Roy
Campanella II, of Directors Circle Filmworks, to produce the low-budget movies based on
books from Arabesque, which was recently purchased by the network's parent company,
BET Holdings Inc.
The strategy is to create content for both BET and BET
Movies/Starz!3, as well as to provide more original programming that advertisers and cable
operators will pay more for, according to Robert Johnson, chairman and CEO of BET
"Our revenue growth will depend more and more on ad
revenue," he said. "We want to send a signal out to the ad community, and to
cable operators, that we want to put on better programming ... We will be looking for
reasonable rate increases from operators and advertisers."
This year, a bevy of cable networks have unveiled plans to
do made-for-TV movies, including TBS Superstation, FX, VH1, Fox Family Channel and A&E
Each of BET's original movies will be made for an
average of $1.5 million or less, according to Johnson, and they will present black-themed
dramas, comedies, suspense thrillers and romances.
"We expect black women to flock to these roles,"
he said. "Black women can't get cast as leading women in romances."
The first of the feature-length, made-for-TV movies will
air on BET Movies/Starz!3 in March or April. Then, they will be cut into 30-minute
segments to air as a series on BET next fall, Johnson said.
Aside from the expansion into original movies, BET will
launch four new original series in September: a primetime nightly concert series called BET
SoundStage; Heart & Soul, a health-fitness show based on BET's
magazine of the same name; Buy the Book, a literary talk show; and Madd Sports,
featuring one-on-one interviews with sports figures.
The plan is for the made-for-TV movies, as well as the new
series, to develop synergies with other BET units. For example, Buy the Book will
promote Arabesque titles, and BET's stable of magazines will report on the making of
BET's movies, Johnson said.