BET Retunes BET on Jazz

In an effort to broaden its format and audience, Black Entertainment Television will reposition its BET on Jazz network to offer more musical rhythms and long-form entertainment programming.

The rebranded BET J network will debut March 1 with a new DirecTV Inc. distribution deal, putting the network in more than 20 million homes, according to network executive vice president and general manger Paxton Baker.

While BET J will continue to offer classic jazz-music videos, concert and artist-profile programming throughout the week, the network will switch tunes and program mostly Caribbean-based music programming on Saturdays and more smooth jazz and neo soul programming, featuring artists like Erika Badu and Jill Scott, on Sundays.

In terms of long-form entertainment fare, the network in March will launch a “Black Filmmaker’s Showcase” on Tuesdays and Thursdays in primetime, spotlighting short projects from up-and-coming moviemakers.

The network also wants to create a tent-pole event on the level of the BET Awards to further build the brand and generate viewership, according to Baker. In addition, BET J will look to create documentaries and other entertainment-based programming that chronicles the African-American experience beyond music.

“The J stands not only for jazz, but it is also to showcase the complete African-American journey,” he said. “We want to bring in more black culture programming to the channel.”

The network is hoping to lure 30-something viewers who may be too old for the younger-skewing BET and too young to enjoy older-targeted content from competitor TV One.

BET J hopes the change will increase distribution for the service. BET on Jazz has deals with such operators as Cablevision Systems Corp. and Time Warner Cable. The direct-broadcast satellite carriage stems from the far-reaching DirecTV/Viacom Inc. deal that was reached last year.

For more on BET J, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page 14 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.

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.