BET Gets Into Scripted ‘Game’

New York — Emphasizing its ability to appeal to all
segments of the African-American community, BET will
produce several new scripted series, specials and events
as it looks to continue to build on its stellar 2009 ratings
performance, network officials said during its upfront
presentation in New York.

The network hopes to establish itself in the scripted
genre by producing the fourth season of The Game, which
previously aired on The CW. BET will air new episodes of
the series — which follows the lives and relationships of
players on a fictional pro-football team — beginning in
fourth-quarter 2010, according to Loretha Jones, president
of original programming for the African-American
targeted network. BET currently airs episodes from the
first three seasons of the series.

“There aren’t many shows that resonate so well with
African-Americans with regard to the characters and relationships
portrayed in the show,” Jones told Multichannel
, adding that most of the show’s cast will reprise
their roles.

“It happens to be set in the world of football, but it could
really be any sport or any profession — it really looks at
what goes on between men and women.”

BET will also team with actress/singer Queen Latifah’s
production company, Flavor Unit Entertainment, to produce
a scripted comedy series, Let’s Stay Together. The series,
which takes a look at the relationship challenges of
five young, aspirational African-Americans, will premiere
in first-quarter 2011, according to Jones.

BET and Flavor Unit will also team to produce featurelength
film The Cookout 2, a sequel to the 2004 comedy

The Game and Let’s Stay Together represent BET’s first
foray into scripted programming since 2008’s failed series
Somebodies, as well as the first scripted projects developed
by Jones.

“African-American audiences have always sought out
scripted representations of ourselves,” Jones said. “We believe
our audience deserves fresh original shows that are
contemporary and speak to what is going on today.”

On the event side, BET later this year will develop
specials around the 10th anniversaries of two popular
network franchises, 106 & Park and The BET Awards, according
to Stephen Hill, president of Entertainment and
music programming for the network. BET will also celebrate
its 30th anniversary with a special highlighting the
30 biggest moments of the last 30 years.

The network will also partner with women’s advocacy
group Black Girls Rock to televise an awards show celebrating
and honoring African-American women and their
achievements. Hill also said the network will air specials
focusing on the top 10 hip-hop artists of the 21st century,
as well as women in hip-hop, Hill said.

On the reality front, the network later this year will air Te
Kennedys, which follows the exploits of skateboarder Terry
Kennedy and his efforts to balance his fame with family life;
and The Laurieann Gibson Project, a competition dance series
led by the famed Making the Band choreographer and
principal dancer.

BET will also return several series, including its latenight
talk show The Mo’Nique Show, freshman reality
series The Family Crews and gospel music series Bobby
Jones Gospel
. The network will also feature Antonia ‘Toya’
Carter in a series spinoff of the network’s popular sophomore
reality series Tiny and Toya.

BET is hoping its new and returning shows will continue
the rating success from last year: The network garnered
double-digit increases in total viewers last year,
averaging a network record 775,000 viewers.

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.