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'BET Awards' Gets a Viacom-Wide Push

Black Entertainment Television has enlisted the help of its corporate siblings to promote the network's first annual BET Awards
show, to be televised live on Tuesday, June 19.

Other Viacom Inc. properties, including Blockbuster Inc. and MTV Networks, will run spots to help drive tune-in — Blockbuster through its video-rental stores and MTVN on its basic-cable networks.

Broadcast-TV network CBS will also promote the BET Awards
through its 24-hour TV screen on New York's 42nd Street.

"One of the best things about Viacom is the synergy opportunities among all our internal companies," said BET senior vice president of corporate marketing Kelli Richardson.

In regular meetings with the Viacom marketing council, BET executives made it clear that the awards show was BET's biggest priority of the year.

"We're looking for a 3.0 rating, which is huge for us," Richardson said.

By comparison, the network garnered a 1.73 rating for its 20th anniversary special last year and a 6.0 rating for an exclusive interview with O.J. Simpson several years ago.

A BET study confirmed there is a direct correlation between marketing and tune-in, Richardson noted, adding, "We're spending commensurate with the ratings goal."

Other Viacom cable networks, including MTV: Music Television, VH1 and Nickelodeon, have made signature events of their annual awards shows. And while Richardson said BET certainly learned from its counterparts at its new parent, the idea for BET Awards
was hatched over a year ago, well before Viacom acquired BET.

Cable affiliates have a chance to participate in the BET Awards
celebration in two ways, by promoting the Ultimate Fan sweepstakes, and by giving their call-center agents the chance to win a trip to the show in the Ultimate CSR sweepstakes.

Cable operators can associate themselves with the awards show — which will include comedian Steve Harvey as one of two hosts and music superstar Whitney Houston among its guests — by running cross-channel spots searching for the "ultimate fan."

Affiliates can stock entry forms at point-of-purchase displays in their bill payment centers, Richardson said.

Viewers can also visit the network's bet.com/awards
Web site to enter for a chance to win a trip to the awards in Las Vegas. More than 16,000 online entries were submitted over the contest's first 20 days, BET said.

One winner will be allowed on-stage to present the "Viewer's Choice" award. The 12 other categories include best gospel artist, best actor in a film, athlete of the year and best female hip-hop artist.

Cable customer-service representatives are encouraged to talk up the awards show to callers. The agents must answer trivia questions about the network to successfully compete in the Ultimate CSR contest.

The company has distributed more than 10,000 game pieces to affiliates.

"We have the highest participation of any affiliate campaign we've done," Richardson said, noting that 60 percent of BET's customer base is involved with the promotion.

BET will use the awards show as a launching pad for its fall season, as well as its new music season, which starts June 20, Richardson said.

Richardson said she believes casual BET viewers will be encouraged to watch more often after they tune in for the star-studded event.