Black Entertainment Television (BET)
Black Entertainment Telev
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Black Entertainment Television (BET)

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Black Entertainment Television (BET)

Black Entertainment Television (BET)

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Description

Black Entertainment Television (acronym BET) is an American basic cable channel targeting African-American audiences. It is owned by the CBS Entertainment Group unit of Paramount Global via BET Networks and has offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and was formerly headquartered in Washington, D.C.

As of February 2015, approximately 88,255,000 American households (75.8% of households with television) receive the channel.

History

After stepping down as a lobbyist for the cable industry, Freeport, Illinois native Robert L. Johnson decided to launch his own cable television network. Johnson would soon acquire a loan for $15,000 and a $500,000 investment from media executive John Malone to start the network. The network, which was named Black Entertainment Television (BET), launched on January 25, 1980. Cheryl D. Miller designed the logo that would represent the network, which featured a star to symbolize "Black Star Power".

Initially, broadcasting for two hours a week as a block of programming on the Madison Square Garden Sports Network (which would change their name to USA Network three months after BET launched), the network's lineup composed of music videos and reruns of popular black sitcoms.

It would not be until 1983 that BET became a full-fledged entity, independent of any other channel or programming block, though for years it continued to share channel space with other cable networks on local cable systems due to lack of channel room for their 24-hour schedule until the time of digital cable allowed for larger channel capacity. In some markets, the network would not arrive at all until as late as the early 2010s and ViacomCBS considered it compulsory in retransmission consent negotiations to carry the BET Networks with ViacomCBS networks, due to some providers claiming that there was an overall lack of demand for the channel, or there was a low to non-existent African-American population within their service area.

BET launched a news program, BET News, in 1988, with Ed Gordon as its anchor. Gordon later hosted other programs and specials on BET, such as Black Men Speak Out: The Aftermath, related to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and a recurring interview show, Conversations with Ed Gordon. In 1996, the talk show BET Tonight started with Tavis Smiley as host; in 2001, Ed Gordon replaced Smiley as host of the program.

In 1991, the network became the first black-controlled television company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Starting the late 1990s, the network expanded with the launch of digital cable networks: what is now the general interest channel BET Her was initially launched as "BET on Jazz" (later known as "BET Jazz", "BET J", and "Centric"), created initially to showcase jazz music-related programming, especially that of African-American jazz musicians; in 1997, it entered into a joint venture with Starz (then-owned by John Malone's Liberty Media, but later acquired by Lionsgate years later) to launch a multiplex service of the premium channel featuring African American-oriented films called "BET Movies: Starz! 3" (later renamed "Black Starz" after BET dropped out of the venture following its purchase by Viacom, then-owner of Starz rival Showtime, and now known as "Starz InBlack"). In 2001, the network lost its status as a black-owned business when it was bought by media conglomerate Viacom for $3 billion. In 2005, Johnson retired from the network, turning over his titles of president and chief executive officer to former BET vice president Debra L. Lee.

In 2002, the network had launched two more music-oriented networks, BET Hip-Hop and BET Gospel. BET also launched a series of original programming by this time, including reality shows Baldwin Hills and Hell Date, competition show Sunday Best, and town hall-style discussion show Hip Hop vs. America. BET's president of entertainment Reginald Hudlin resigned from the network on September 11, 2008. He was then replaced by Stephen Hill, who is also executive vice president of music programming and talent. BET announced in March 2010 that Ed Gordon would return to the network to host "a variety of news programs and specials".

In March 2017, president of programming Stephen Hill and executive vice president of original programming Zola Mashariki both stepped down. Connie Orlando, senior vice president of Specials, Music Programming, and News was named the interim president of programming.

In July 2017, Viacom signed new film and television development deals with Tyler Perry following the expiration of his existing pact with Discovery Inc. (now merged with WarnerMedia) in 2019. As part of this deal, Perry would produce The Oval and Sistas for BET and co-own the network's newly launched streaming service, BET+.

In March 2023, it was reported that Paramount Global was exploring the sale of a majority stake in BET Networks in order to provide additional funding to its flagship streaming service Paramount+; Perry, as well as Sean "Puffy" Combs (who owns Revolt TV) and Byron Allen (who owns Entertainment Studios, TheGrio, and The Weather Channel), were identified as potential suitors.

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Company Persons

American co-founde of Black Entertainment Television (BET)
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Chief executive officer of Black Entertainment Television (BET)
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Head organization

Black Entertainment Television LLC (BET Networks)
Black Entertainment Television LLC, doing business as BET Networks, is an American entertainment company that oversees the company's premium cable television channels, including its flagship

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