BET’s Lee on New Shows, Networks

Coming off a record-setting second quarter for viewership, BET chairman and CEO Debra Lee said the network is set to continue its momentum with the launch of several new original series, including late-night series The Mo’Nique Showand reality series Monica. Lee talked to Multichannel News about the network’s rating success as well as its fall programming plans, including the launch of its new network Centric.

MCN: What was the driving force behind the network’s record-setting ratings performance?

Debra Lee: The main driver was the team working well together and the programming folks generating better acquisitions and buying better movies. It’s been a combination of those three things.

I think it also goes back to the announcement in March and April of our new brand strategy. I think our audience is starting to see the effects of it already, even though we haven’t really created the original programming to go with it, nor have we done an on-air or off-air campaign for it.

The really high point for us was the BET Awards and everyone working together to turn that into a tribute to Michael Jackson in less than three days. I think that really showed off our brand strategy and the passion of the people that work at BET … it was a real labor of love, but it really worked for us.

MCN: How will you look to continue that momentum in the second half of the year?

DL: With the second half of the year, I think we’re just going to get better because we’ll have all-new original programming from [BET co-presidents] Loretha Jones and Stephen Hill. So when you add the new original programming on top of what we’ve already been doing, we’re hoping the ratings will go even higher.

MCN: In October, BET along with MTV will launch a new network, Centric. Can you talk to me about what you’re trying to accomplish with that service?

DL: Well, Centric is going to allow us to offer another outlet for a little older, more-mature audience. It’s going to focus on music, but also a lot of other lifestyle issues, so I’m really excited about it. We’re also bringing back the Soul Train Awards, which is one of my personal favorites, so I think it’s going to be another strong network for a slightly older audience.

MCN: Are you confident that it will be able to launch with more than 40 million subscribers that was projected when BET made the announcement earlier this year?

DL: Yes, I’m confident we’ll be there.