BET Rolls Into 2006 Riding Momentum From Best-Ever Viewership Year, Major Successes and New Direction
WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 -- Any television network would welcome
the wave that BET Networks is riding as the New Year unfolds. Calendar year
2005 saw the core BET cable channel deliver its best-ever audience with
households and viewers increasing by an impressive 17% over 2004. The company
also celebrated its 25th anniversary; fine-tuned its business portfolio; made
executive moves focused on original programming; and refreshed its market
identity with new graphics and an edgier attitude. All of this happened in
just the first six months of Debra Lee's tenure as CEO.
"We're generating the kind of results that should make BET affiliates,
advertisers, viewers and supporters take notice. Every part of the BET
organization is contributing to that success," said Lee. "The momentum we
have gives us optimism heading into 2006. The thought of trying to match or
surpass last year's performance is a challenge we certainly welcome."
Lee continued, "I see successes and milestones as ingredients you use to
set your next slate of goals and objectives. BET has never taken success
lightly. We're already hard at work on making 2006 another great year."
While BET's business platform is thriving, its holding company Viacom,
Inc. is changing. Earlier this week, Viacom officially split into two
separate companies -- CBS Corporation, with radio, broadcast television,
publishing and outdoor advertising among its brands; and a "new" version of
Viacom that features MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures, Famous Music and BET
"It's an exciting new day for both Viacom and BET," said Lee. "Our
company is now an even bigger part of the overall Viacom business strategy.
This bodes well for future investment in the BET brand."
In 2005, BET made some important strategic moves. First, it launched a
home entertainment business through a ground-breaking retail deal with
Wal-Mart stores to sell BET-branded content nationwide. Next, the company
unveiled BET Mobile, a venture to access the lucrative world of ring tones,
games and video content for wireless devices. BET then completed its
realignment of assets by selling the BET Books division to publishing giant
BET's programming engine was running full throttle in 2005 with a mix of
mega-specials and proven favorites forming the right tonic for viewers. The
'05 BET AWARDS earned the title of most-watched program ever by African
Americans in the history of cable television (Nielsen Media Research,
1996-present). Overall, 6.6 million viewers watched the annual showcase
nationally across all demographics.
For the year, BET's daily sign-on to sign-off rating was .50, which
calculates to an average of 485,000 viewers and 406,000 households tuning in
-- easily the best performance in the network's 25-year history. Black
college reality show COLLEGE HILL was cable's #1 half-hour original program
among African-American households during the first quarter of 2005. Viewer
favorites like 106 & PARK: BET'S TOP 10 LIVE, BOBBY JONES GOSPEL,
BLACK-BUSTER CINEMA and a blend of syndicated sitcoms highlighted by
IN LIVING COLOR and THE JAMIE FOXX SHOW were consistent draws in their
BET struck a heart-felt cord with all of America in September with S.O.S.
(Saving OurSelves): THE BET RELIEF TELETHON, which raised more than
$12 million in pledges and contributions for Hurricane Katrina victims.
News-focused specials performed well again for BET in December as RICHARD
PRYOR: THE FUNNIEST MAN DEAD OR ALIVE, a documentary on the life and death of
Pryor, attracted 1.1 million viewers.
Going forward, BET's strategy rests on a reenergized commitment to more
original programming. Lee announced in July the hiring of acclaimed Hollywood
producer and director Reginald Hudlin as BET President of Entertainment.
Hudlin's charge is to establish a solid pipeline of original programming from
sources inside and outside of BET.
"We're giving Reggie and his team the latitude and resources to shake
things up," said Lee. "The payoff may not happen overnight, but we're
definitely moving in the right direction."
Hudlin has already had an impact. He led a multi-city, coast-to-coast
casting call that attracted thousands of candidates from which BET will unveil
fresh new talent for a range of network shows. BET's News and Public Affairs
programming has been infused with a more contemporary delivery that shifts
from half-hour newscasts to news briefs throughout the day; increases the
number of issues-driven news specials; and further leverages the BET.com
Internet portal as a news content source. Next for Hudlin and BET is a slate
of new 2006 programming that includes more genre-busting reality series; an
unconventional talk show with religious leaders debating hot topics; a
fast-paced news magazine; and more high-energy specials.
Other 2005 successes for BET included:
* Continued status as the #1 cable network in primetime for African
Americans, and the top channel overall for African Americans ages 18-34,
BET's target demographic.
* Rollout of an all-new graphic look and attitudinal feel for BET. The
overall network anthem "It's My Thing" was launched in January, with an
important emotional connection to Black culture and style as seen
through the in eyes of the BET audience.
* Negotiation of expanded distribution for the BET Jazz Channel that will
be announced in 1st Quarter 2006, along with a brand and programming
re-launch for that network.
* Impressive performance by the BET.com website which averaged 50 million
page views and 3 million unique visitors per month;
* More recognition for BET's Rap-It-Up initiative, the largest effort
targeting HIV/AIDS among African Americans in the country, with the
effort receiving a public service Emmy Award nomination, an NAACP Award
nomination for its film "Walking on Sunshine", and five Cable Positive
Awards, including recognition of BET as Network of the Year. The
Rap-It-Up informational hotline also received its one millionth caller,
a huge milestone in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
* Continuation of the tremendous momentum created by the BET Foundation
(started in 2003), including the introduction of a BET Summer Camp for
Girls and a continued commitment to the battle against obesity among
African-American women and girls.
BET, a subsidiary of Viacom, Inc. (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B), is the nation's
leading television network providing quality entertainment, music, news and
public affairs programming for the African-American audience. The BET Network
reaches more than 80 million households according to Nielsen media research,
and can be seen in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. BET is a
dominant consumer brand in the urban marketplace with a diverse group of
branded businesses: BET.com, the Number 1 Internet portal for African
Americans; BET Digital Networks -- BET Jazz, BET Gospel and BET Hip Hop,
attractive alternatives for cutting-edge entertainment tastes; and BET Event
Productions, specializing in a full range of event production services,
including event management, venue selection, talent recruitment, sound,
lighting and stage production.
SOURCE BET (Black Entertainment Television)
Web Site: http://www.bet.com