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BET Chases Ad Gains

New York— Fresh off its flashy upfront presentation here last week, Black Entertainment Television believes that its unprecedented slate of eight new original series, combined with the demise of broadcast network UPN, will translate into additional advertising revenues for the 2006-07 TV season.

The 81.7 million-subscriber service will look to fill the void for advertisers that looked to reach African-American viewers through UPN, which offers a number of popular Black-aimed shows. UPN and The WB will merge to create The CW, set to launch next September.

“UPN’s departure leaves a vacuum in the marketplace,” BET chairman and CEO Debra Lee said in a recent interview with Multichannel News. “Given that, along with our ratings and new original programming, I think there will be more money in the upfront [for BET].”


Lee, in her first upfront since being named chairman of the network, touted the network’s multiplatform content pitch to advertisers, which includes branded ringtones and video content from its BET Mobile service, as well as exclusive short-form video programming from its recently launched “BET On Blast” broadband video service. She noted that African-Americans typically are early adopters of new technologies and are bigger users of the Internet, compared to other groups.

“We have a brand that people know and understand and we’ll be there whether it’s through, broadband or [BET Mobile],” Lee said.

On the network side, BET is coming off a strong ratings performance in the first quarter. Bolstered by breakout performances from original fare such as its mini-reality series Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown, the network registered a 17% increase to a 0.7 primetime household average, versus the prior-year period, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

BET entertainment president Reginald Hudlin said the network will reach out to all African-American viewers with a mix of original programming cutting across all demos.


Among the new celebrity reality shows BET will premiere this summer and fall: Next Level: Vince Young, focusing on the life of the Texas Longhorns star quarterback as he transitions from college to the National Football League; Star Time: Keyshia Cole, spotlighting the up and coming R&B music star; and DMX: Soul Of A Man, which chronicles the life of the popular rapper.

Also on the network’s original-programming slate are American Gangster, chronicling the country’s most powerful Black gangsters past and present; Black Book Diaries, an adult-targeted late-night anthology series; Iron Ring, a mixed martial arts-targeted series in which celebrities manage the fighters through their bouts; Hotwyred, which will profile the latest Web sites, ring tones, video games and multimedia gadgets; and The Black Carpet, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at high-profile events.

Those shows join previously announced series The Cut Up and Season of the Tiger, both of which were scheduled to launch on the network last week.