BET Strategic Opportunities - July 2009




New programming presidents Loretha Jones and Stephen Hill were appointed in fourth quarter '08. Where will they take the network? Their stated mission is to "respect, reflect, elevate and inspire our audience." Reality remains the dominant format. Political programming is also taking a more prominent seat on the network (Inaugural Ball, THE BET HONORS, press conference coverage). THE GAME was brought to BET''s air from CW, and movies have been ramped up. A couple of latenight talk shows are happening. Future plans are heavy on celebrity reality, music competition and community-building news programming.

From a February 2009 interview in MultiChannel News, new co-president of programming Loretha Jones gave some insight to BET's expanding strategy: "I think our goal and whole idea is to reach a variety of ages and interests with a variety of genres of shows that we intend to bring to them. We have shows like [Harlem Heights] that may skew older and we have acquisitions like Smart Guy which skew younger. We're looking at developing an original animated show in the family vein so everyone from 8 to 80 can watch it. We're considering what's going to work best because we want to build our schedule in such a way that families feel comfortable leaving the channel on BET the whole time, but at the same time, depending on who's going to be home, servicing their needs as well."

Despite this openness to programming to ages 8 to 80, BET has announced they will launch a new network, CENTRIC, which will feature programming that is geared to the 30+ crowd.

The network continues to explore new programming genres, with some hits and a lot of misses, as it searches for those successful franchises. BET has shown a willingness to invest in homemade comedies and dramas, turning away from the low-cost high-margin music videos and amateur comedians of the past. SOMEBODIES was a failed attempt at a scripted original drama, and BET is one of the few top rated cable networks without a scripted original on their air or on their development slate.

During the 2009/2010 upfront presentations, Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET spoke about how BET will provide its audience with "quality entertainment that speaks to where they are in their lives and where they want to go. BET's reinvigorated approach is built on supporting families, embracing and encouraging their dreams, focusing on the issues that are important to them and presenting the freshest talent and entertainment."

This September, the network joins Viacom in a company-wide Gates Foundation sponsored initiative that highlights the benefits of education. Look for more social initiatives from the network that continues to add a political voice to its brand and live political coverage to the air.

With that said, the majority of the network's new programming development is focused on the music industry via the TV lens of reality and competition.


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