The race continues as top-profile celebs such as Byron Allen and Tyler Perry bid for their stake to own BET and its sister channel VH1 by Paramount Global. It has been widely stated that Tyler Perry has acquired BET, however, that has not been proven to be accurate. According to Forbes.com, Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs are all contenders to acquire the two channels.
Tyler Perry’s popularity comes as no surprise due to his relationship with BET and BET+. Tyler Perry possesses 25% of BET+ streaming services while a number of his productions replay frequently on their Network. Overall, I am most excited that BET will most likely return to black ownership. Now that we have our potential contenders, social media users are voicing their opinions about what type of content they would prefer to see televised. The quality of BET’s televised content has significantly decreased over the years. Swarmed with reruns and originals, some may suggest a tremendous need for change for BET, and I agree. Here are 10 things we’d want from BET under new ownership.
BET as we know it does not reflect the BET we grew up watching. Most days you’ll click on to see Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, Madea’s Christmas, Martin, and a plethora of BET Originals we all know and love. Though I am a fan, I can’t help but notice the content lacks variety and does not appeal to all genres. I do notice the amount of diverse content online at BET.com. However, that makes me question why aren’t they aired on their Televised Network.
Under new ownership, I’d hope to see BET’s original format return. In addition to providing content for everyone, this will also improve job opportunities for newer (green) writers, directors, production staff, producers, actors, and more. Upward development will diversify BET and VH1. Extending the narrative of black stories would be an incredible step forward expanding the imagination of its viewers and its influence on the next generation.
Promote More Independent Films
It would be beneficial for BET to create a specific section to promote more independent films and television programs. This will provide support for our writers, directors, crew and independent actors, etc. After a while Reruns become a nuisance and viewers will migrate to channels that offer a variety of fresher content. I took some time to venture online and BET streaming platforms provide only a small variety of new content.
The body of original, diverse, and profound content falls primarily on the festival market or streaming services like Tubi or Crackle. Though they are great platforms, I feel that it limits the ability for exposure for upcoming filmmakers. BET does a great job of this when partnering with The Queen Collective (By Queen Latifah) and BETHer and one of my favorite Sundance-selected films Miss Juneteenth are listed online. I saw one Series titled Curves that was really good but did not last. Outside of BET Originals, there is a surprisingly long list of unfinished or short-lived series on the platform. It is undeniable that Bet.com keeps up with current topics, festivals, and interviews, but have they forgotten about their televised audience?
I would love to see BET pair with festivals such as Tribeca, Sundance, and American Black Film Festival to create a Platform on their streaming services that would allow viewers to see series, short films, documentaries, and comedy specials with less exposure. Now, I do understand the complexities of the festival market, and granted most will not be accessible until they are out of the competition but it would be great to see more independent films that wouldn’t usually receive the notoriety as their other films with celebrity-packed films.
Spotify and Youtube have become my favorite podcast listening and watching resources, which make it easy to stream podcasts like Rory and Mal, Jemele Hill is Unbothered, and Spirited Actors Podcast. The Breakfast Club sits on BET’s platform but I couldn’t navigate through their platform to find any other podcast on their platform. There are so many popular podcasts to choose from nowadays I find it crippling to see very few podcasts listed on a streaming service targeted at POC (People of Color). This is a significantly untouched realm that BET is beginning to explore. According to Thesource.com, the Breakfast Club serves as their first daily programming since 106 and Park. It will attract a new audience and give a fresh spin on the podcasting experience. This is definitely a step in the right direction.
Positive Reality Shows
I can say BET has done well in its reality segments. One series I grew to love was Urban Beauty TV on BETNow. I also enjoyed The Glam Gap. What I did notice is that most of their reality shows do not make it onto the Channel and remain in their first season. Bring this back! Watching reality shows about beauty, entrepreneurs, and daily family living without overacting and fighting is so hard to find. As engaging as it is to watch shows like Love and Hip Hop or Real Housewives for entertainment, it is only one depiction of our culture. Why is it popular to depict this fight or flight scenario?
In my opinion, this depiction has the negative effect of degrading people of color, emphasizing a damaging image that promotes stereotypical portrayals of black men and women. There needs to be a balance. I’d love to see more reality shows like Celebrity Stash, Black Owned Real Estate Corporations, and our version of Top Chef. Stories like these exist but are spread out on multiple platforms. Create a happy medium that recognizes and elevates these professions on a reputable platform.
Interview Style / Talk-Show Representation
Talk shows have always dominated prime-time television. Reviews for shows such as The Jennifer Hudson Show and Sherri Show have been extremely positive. Though I wonder how influential would it be to migrate those kinds of shows to a (potentially) Black Owned platform. BET is not foreign to the concept. Shows like The Man Cave and Wine Down with Mary J. Blige are shown on BET+. However, shows like The Real transitioned from BET to Bounce TV after its 3-year placement on BET. Counter-channels such as OWN, Bounce TV, and TVOne have dominated the generate black audience for some time.
Overall, I hope that BET sees its infrastructure and finds a lane that is cohesive to them that also can bring the same black viewership back to its channel. Youth talk-Shows and Sit-down style interviews are all the rave if they create a space for interview-style content, it would have a great impact on viewership. Their site does an amazing job within their interview circuit of articles. I believe it will be even better by taking their articles and creating a visual market either online or on Television.
Docu-Series / Documentary Specials
Docu-Series are such an important piece to preserve our culture and tell our stories. Some of the best Ducu-series I’ve watched do not play on television, yet streaming services dominate this realm. How impactful would it have been to have a documentary special for June’s celebration of Black Music Month that featured documentaries like Summer of Soul? When you venture onto the BETNow App, there are several substantial docu-series like Boiling Point and The Murder Inc Story but again there are very few that make it onto television. Let’s change that!
Family-Centered Content and Cartoons
BET has a great family collection on its streaming service. However, that selection is very limited and harbors more reruns than fresher content. Shows like That Girl Lay Lay, The Bookmarks, Mowntown Magic, and Ada Twist The Scientist should be on BET’s morning platform to bring in a family-centered demographic. Parents are always looking for new ways to occupy their children and young adults are caught up in the nostalgic feeling of being a kid again.
According to Statista.com, 24% of young adults aged 18-29 years watch kids-friendly shows. Another 25% of adults 30-49 tune in as well. I can not stress enough how important it is to create a space for children. This is not only good for viewership but gives room for children to see young black characters represented on the screen without the constant back and forth between Nickelodeon and Netflix. Not to mention how amazing it used to be to turn on the television and watch an endless amount of cartoons on Saturday mornings.
HBCU Sports Streaming
Byron Allen has taken the initiative by increasing the exposure of HBCU sports. According to Variety.com, Allen Media Group created a free streaming service titled HBCU Go in 2012 that offers the ability to stream HBCU Sporting events. Now, in 2022, they have partnered with CBS after securing a licensing agreement to distribute the streaming of “107 Historically Black Colleges.” This will include NCAA, SWAC, and CIAA conferences. Also, a causes an increase in viewership. “60% of US Households” in the US and “70% of African American Households.”
This is a great upward mobility for HBCU sports. If Byron Allen becomes owner (or anyone for that matter) I’d love to see him invest in streaming HBCU Sports on BET as the home station for all sports for Division 1 and Division 2 athletic games.
News, Politics, and Education
There is no denying the troubling influx of news we receive from CNN to our local stations that illustrate the negative presentation of our culture with crime and politics. According to pewresearch.org, 60% of Black Americans favor receiving the news on television. However, research reveals Black Americans are not sufficiently represented in the newsroom across the United States.
America in Black, a new series from BET, is proving to be very successful! The series America In Black examines black stories and aims to establish a platform where intellectuals can voice their opinion freely and logically regarding the decision against Affirmative Action, the Crown Act, without being censored. This is a step in the right direction! Now, don’t get me wrong, I do realize that we have various variations such as NBCBLK, and The GRIO Politics, which have already developed a strong platform within this topic.
However, it wouldn’t hurt to have room for one more syndication which gives us the opportunity for more representation and one more opportunity to tell our stories accurately. Due to this new change in the racial climate in the United States where the manipulation of knowledge has become prevalent, there’s a need for opportunities to educate and bring awareness to the current racial climate in our country.
Bring Back the Old Award Shows
The Awards shows I watched as a child are not the same award shows I see today. Maybe it was a mix of the adolescent enjoyment of Monique’s rendition of Beyonce or when Kendrick Lamar performed with Erykah Badu. The 2003 BET performance with Michael Jackson honoring James Brown was truly unforgettable and showcased some memorable performances. So when did the shift in awards become so, forgettable?
There were some enjoyable performances in the 2023 BET Awards like the Migos Tribute honoring Take Off. However, I do believe the awards show does not hold the credibility it once had. I’d love to see the BET Awards return to the credible center of Black Entertainment. This year I did notice its heavy Hip Hop influence. This year being the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop, I understand the push for representation. However, next year, I’d to see performances equivalent to Dr. Dre’s halftime show at the Superbowl. It may be a reach but when Artists like Missy Elliot, Eminem, and Lloyd Banks can grace the stage together for the Busta Rhymes remix to Bust It, I know that the BET Awards can return to the diverse, multi-layered award celebration we grew to love.