BET Reorganizes By Cutting Staff, Shows

Black Entertainment Television last week laid off 40 employees and said it will cancel several of its original news and public affairs shows, including BET Tonight With Ed Gordon.

BET cut 12 percent of its 350-person workforce as part of an "organizational restructuring" that will see it become more aggressive in acquiring syndicated fare and creating joint programming ventures.

As part of the restructuring, network sources said BET will cancel two of its regular news shows, Lead Story
and BET Tonight With Ed Gordon, as well as teen-targeted public affairs show Teen Summit
and music video show Cita's World.

Lead Story
and BET Tonight
were centerpieces of the network's enhanced news division, which has been boosted by a partnership with Viacom Inc. sister unit, CBS News. A third news program, BET Nightly News
will remain intact, according to sources.

In a statement, BET president and chief operating officer Debra Lee said the network's new focus "required us to examine our entire corporate structure and get a better sense of the size and scope of organization we need moving forward.

"It's always difficult to lose people as part of business process, but these changes are our effort to support our new programming direction at BET," she added.

Three weeks ago network executive vice president of entertainment programming Curtis Gadson left the company as part of its new programming strategy.

Lee said that findings from market research, audience analysis, focus groups and direct viewer feedback were direct contributors to the shift in BET's focus to reach an even broader audience, including more African-American women. To that end, the network two months ago formed a co-production alliance with Oxygen Media to create an animated series, Hey Monie.

In addition, Lee earlier this year told Multichannel News
the network would look to develop synergistic ties with Viacom Inc.-owned services to obtain programming for the network, having spoken with Nickelodeon, The National Network, Showtime and Paramount Pictures Corp.

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.