HistoryAfter 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. 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 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. 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'' debuted 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 TV 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 originally launched as BET on Jazz (later known as BET Jazz and BET J), created originally to showcase jazz music-related programming, especially that of black jazz musicians; in 1998, it entered into a joint venture with Starz (TV channel), Starz (then-owned by John Malone's Liberty Media) to launch a multiplex service of the pay television, premium channel featuring African American-oriented movies 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 (TV channel), 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 (original), 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. By 2007, the network had launched two more music-oriented networks, BET Hip-Hop and BET Gospel. BET also launched a batch of original programming by this time, including reality shows ''Baldwin Hills (TV series), Baldwin Hills'' and ''Hell Date'', competition show ''Sunday Best (American TV series), 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. in 2019. As part of this deal, Perry would produce ''The Oval (TV series), The Oval'' and ''Sistas (TV series), Sistas'' for BET and co-own the network's newly launched streaming service, BET+.
ProgrammingBET's programming began with a wide range of comedy, news and current affairs (news format), current affairs, public affairs (broadcasting), public affairs, and music programming, including mainstream hip-hop music, rap, hip-hop and contemporary R&B, R&B music videos (which now air on its branded sister networks) and the network's former flagship program, ''106 & Park'' (which debuted on September 11, 2000 and ended on December 19, 2014). In addition, BET has previously aired same-day or week-delayed late-night runs of syndicated talk shows. Original programming currently seen on BET include ''Boomerang (TV series), Boomerang'', ''Games People Play (2019 TV series), Games People Play'' and ''The Oval (TV series), The Oval''. Daily programming on the network consists of acquired television series and both theatrically and direct-to-video-released films. The network's morning ''BET Rejoice'' block (formally ''BET Inspiration'' until 2017) is dedicated to Christianity, Christian programming and airs in lieu of infomercials in late-night, which the network has not aired since 1997; BET is one of a handful of subscription channels and one of only two Viacom-owned networks to have discontinued airing infomercials (sister network Nickelodeon ran infomercials in some overnight timeslots from 1987 to 1998, with series airing in that daypart since then). BET also carries and produces several Award telecasts, including the network's own BET Awards, which were established in 2001 to celebrate African Americans and different minorities in music, acting, sports and other parts of entertainment over the past year, and The BET Honors, which were established in 2008 to honor the lives and achievements of African-American luminaries and are presented during Black History Month each February. The BET Awards is the network's flaghip event, with the "BET Experience" festival held in the days leading up to the telecast.
BET Walk of Fame AwardsThe BET Walk of Fame Awards were established in 1995 by BET. In 2004, proceeds were shared between United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the BET Foundation, which executes the Healthy BET obesity awareness campaign and other pro-social causes like the annual charitable black-tie BET Walk of Fame ceremony.
BET InteractiveIn 2006, BET Interactive, LLC became a subsidiary of BET. BET also has a digital group including BET.com, BET on Blast, BET on Demand and BET Mobile.
BET FilmsIn 2018, BET Films became a subsidiary of ViacomCBS.
BET Home EntertainmentBET's programming is distributed on DVD and through video-on-demand services under the name BET Home Entertainment. In 2007, a distribution deal was arranged with Paramount Home Entertainment.
CriticismA wide range of people have protested elements of BET's programming and actions, including Public Enemy (band), Public Enemy rapper Chuck D, journalist George E. Curry, George Curry, writer Keith Boykin, comic book creator Christopher Priest (comic book writer), Christopher Priest, filmmaker Spike Lee, Syracuse University professor of finance Boyce Watkins, Dr. Boyce Watkins, former NFL player Burgess Owens, and cartoonist Aaron McGruder (who, in addition to numerous critical references throughout his series, ''The Boondocks (TV series), The Boondocks'', made two particular episodes, "The Hunger Strike" and "The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show", criticizing the channel). As a result, BET heavily censors suggestive content from the videos that it airs, often with entire verses and scenes removed from certain rap videos. Many scholars within the African American community maintain that BET perpetuates and justifies racism by affecting the stereotypes held about African Americans, and also by affecting the psyche of its young viewers through its bombardment of negative images of African Americans. Following the death of civil rights leader Coretta Scott King in 2006, BET broadcast its regularly scheduled music video programming, rather than covering King's funeral live, as was done by TV One (US TV network), TV One and Black Family Channel, and by cable news channels such as CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. The network's website streamed the funeral live, while it periodically broadcast taped, 60-second reports from the funeral by senior news correspondent Andre Showell. Michael Lewellen, BET's senior vice president for corporate communications, defended the decision: "We weighed a number of different options. In the end, we chose to offer a different kind of experience for BET viewers." Lewellen also said that BET received around "two dozen" phone calls and "a handful" of emails criticizing BET for not showing the King funeral live. On the evening of the funeral, February 7, 2006, BET broadcast the tribute special ''Coretta Scott King: Married to the Mission'', and repeated it the following Sunday, February 12. Showell hosted the program featuring highlights of the funeral, ''Coretta Scott King: Celebrating Her Spirit'', that broadcast that same day. In its 2007 convention, the National Association of Black Journalists gave BET its "Thumbs Down Award" for not broadcasting King's funeral live. ''The New York Times'' reported that the Reverend Delman Coates, Delman L. Coates and his organization Enough is Enough led protests every weekend outside the residences of BET executives against what they claim are negative Stereotypes of African Americans, stereotypes of black people perpetuated by BET music videos. Enough is Enough backed an April 2008 report titled ''The Rap on Rap'' by the Parents Television Council that criticized BET's rap programming, suggesting that the gratuitous sexual, violent and profane content was targeting children and teens. In a 2010 interview, BET co-founder Sheila Johnson said that she herself is "ashamed" of what the network has become. "I don't watch it. I suggest to my kids that they don't watch it," she said. "When we started BET, it was going to be the ''Ebony (magazine), Ebony'' magazine on television. We had public affairs programming. We had news... I had a show called ''Teen Summit'', we had a large variety of programming, but the problem is that then the video revolution started up... And then something started happening, and I didn't like it at all. And I remember during those days we would sit up and watch these videos and decide which ones were going on and which ones were not. We got a lot of backlash from recording artists...and we had to start showing them. I didn't like the way women were being portrayed in these videos." BET's development and sale are featured in Bayer Mack's 2019 documentary, ''No Lye: An American Beauty Story'', that chronicles the rise and decline of the black-owned ethnic beauty industry.
Sister networks & International
Spin-offsBET has launched several spin-off networks over the years, including BET Her (originally BET on Jazz), BET Jams (formerly MTV Jams), and BET Soul (formerly VH1 Soul). In May 2019, a BET-branded channel was launched on Pluto TV, which was owned by ViacomCBS in March 2019. In June 2019, ViacomCBS announced the launch of BET+, a premium streaming service targeting the network's African-American demographic. The service launched in the United States in Fall 2019 with ''First Wives Club (TV series), First Wives Club'' (which was originally planned to launch on Paramount Network before being shifted to BET) announced as one of the service's original series.
BET GospelBET Gospel is a television network in the United States that launched on July 1, 2002 and provides gospel and inspirational programming. The network, a spin-off of BET (Black Entertainment Television), mixes new and classic shows as well as original gospel-oriented programming. BET Gospel previously ran on an automated loop schedule. In 2016, the channel was updated with its programming now consisting of recent uplifting music videos, as well as gospel themed series and specials.
=Current programming= *''Lifted'' (2016–present) (music videos) *''Being'' (2016–present) *''Bobby Jones Gospel'' (2002–present) *''Lift Every Voice'' (2002–present) *''Celebration of Gospel'' *''It's a Mann's World'' (2016–present) *''Let the Church Say Amen'' (2016–present) *''The Sheards'' (2016–present) *''T.D. Jakes Presents: Mind, Body, & Soul'' (2016–present) *''Sunday Best (American TV series), Sunday Best'' (2016–present)
=Former programming= *''Video Gospel'' (2002-2016) *''The Potters House'' (2002-2016) *''T.D. Jakes'' *''Bernard E. Jordan'' (2002-2016) *''M.B. Jefferson'' (2002-2016) *''Prophet Manasseh Jordan'' (2002-2016)
BET Hip-HopBET Hip-Hop is a music video network owned by BET Networks which is exclusive to digital cable systems. It formerly aired some of BET's original programming such as ''Rap City (BET program), Rap City'', ''ComicView'' and the network's video countdown programs. After the 2015 relaunch of the former MTV Jams as BET Jams (which has much wider distribution), the channel's programming was shifted to an automated playlist made up of BET's library of older hip-hop videos. As part of Viacom (2005–present), Viacom's 2017 restructuring plan, the network is speculated to slowly wind down operations over time.
BET InternationalBET UK first transmitted on Videotron (now known as Virgin Media) and several other subscription providers from 1993 until 1996. In May 2007 by Ofcom, BET International Inc. was given a license to rebroadcast in the United Kingdom. BET International is the first international version of the channel and is available in Europe, Africa and the Middle East through satellite providers. BET launched on February 27, 2008 on Sky channel 191 and began to be carried by Freesat channel 140 on August 8, 2008. BET+1 is also available on Sky channel 198 and Freesat channel 141, and is free-to-air. BET International shows a mix of content from the main BET channel and locally produced shows. An exclusive, but temporary, HD version of the channel was made to show the 2009 BET Awards on Freesat EPG 142. BET is additionally an associate member of the Caribbean Cable Cooperative. BET launched an app called BET Play allowing international access to BET content in over 100 countries in June 2016.
CanadaBET became available in Canada in October 1997 on most pay television providers. The Canadian feed mirrors the American feed, though certain television programs and films are blacked out. Until 2017, they were replaced with repeats of old music video blocks (namely ''BET Music'', ''The Pull Up'' and ''BET Now''). As of May 2018, the feed now airs current music videos and other acquired sitcoms and films in place of blacked-out programs.
FranceSince November 17, 2015.
See also* Scott Mills (businessperson), Scott Mills * BET Hip Hop Awards * Blackbuster movies * List of programs broadcast by Black Entertainment Television * New Urban Entertainment * Rip the Runway