BET will look to create premium television series and films as part of BET Studios, a new studio production company offering equity ownership for Black content creators, the network said Wednesday.
The studio venture will be headed by former Warner Bros. Television executive Aisha Summers-Burke, who will report to BET president Scott Mills and will be responsible for working collaboratively with the studio’s creative partners and key internal constituencies. Principal partners in the venture include content producers Kenya Barris, Rashida Jones and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas.
BET Studios will look to develop content for BET and sister streaming service BET Plus as well as other ViacomCBS-owned networks including Paramount Plus, Showtime, CBS and Nickelodeon, according to the company. The service will also select third-party platforms that seek content from rising Black creatives.
“The demand for premium content from Black creators has accelerated dramatically as a result of both the rapidly changing media and social landscapes,” Mills said in a statement. “BET, with our 40-year legacy of celebrating Black culture and the full power of the ViacomCBS ecosystem, is uniquely positioned to service this demand. As a company with its origin in Black entrepreneurship, we are incredibly excited to create the first major studio to provide Black creators with ownership, creative freedom and the unparalleled partnership and support of BET. I am thrilled to have Aisha at the helm of this venture, and I look forward to our collaboration with our amazing creative partners in BET Studios.”
Added David Nevins, chief content officer, scripted originals for Paramount Plus and chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks: “BET Studios is an exciting and novel extension of the storied BET brand, and we have a structure well-suited to our times to bring top talent into this production company with real ownership. Scott Mills deserves tremendous credit for driving this innovative new business from idea to reality – and Kenya, Rashida and Aaron, could not be a more talented or in-demand group to lead this venture along with Aisha Summers.”
Burke, who most recently served as VP of scripted television for the cable and streaming division of Warner Horizon before it merged with Warner Bros. TV in 2020, said that the venture will continue to build on BET's legacy of offering quality programming to the Black community.
“With the launch of BET Studios, we are excited to introduce a new model that opens the aperture to a broad array of platforms and supports the full range of content from Black creators,” she said. “This entrepreneurial environment offers creatives the opportunity to produce diverse high-end content reflecting all aspects of entertainment.”
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.
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