BET Welcomes 'Scandal'

During a panel session at this past April’s Multichannel News’ Multiethnic TV Awards conference, I asked BET president and CEO Debra Lee what show she would like to see on BET that’s currently airing on another cable or broadcast channel. Without hesitation, Lee said ABC’s drama Scandal.

“Our acquisition people were in the audience that day and quickly started conversations [with ABC],” recalled Lee. Last month those conversations ended with the African American-targeted network reaching a syndication deal with ABC to exclusively re-air episodes of the popular drama.

Beginning Saturday and throughout the month of August, fans of no-nonsense “fixer” Olivia Pope – played by Emmy-nominated actress Kerry Washington -- can binge view the first two seasons of Scandal on BET before ABC begins airing new episodes of the series on Oct. 3.

The unusual syndication deal not only gives BET rights to the first two seasons Scandal, it allows BET to air episodes from the third season of the drama eight days after premiering on ABC.

For BET, the quick turnaround of new Scandal episodes could put the series on par with the network’s most popular scripted shows like Real Husbands Of Hollywood, The Game and Being Mary Jane. Lee said only 15% of BET viewers have actually watched Scandal, which on average generates about 2.8 million African-American viewers on ABC.

“There’s a huge upside for us … a lot of our viewers haven’t seen Scandal,” she said. “We’re excited to be part of this cultural phenomenon.”

Beginning Saturday (Aug. 10), BET will air a 14-hour marathon of Scandal episodes, followed by a second 14-hour binge-viewing session next Saturday. The network will complete its Scandal run Aug. 21 with a back-to-back airing of the final episode of season two, according network officials.

BET will re-air the first season of Scandal on Wednesday evenings leading up to the show’s Oct. 3 premiere on ABC.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.