BET Will Spread the News

Black Entertainment Television will revamp its news approach by the end of this summer to increase the frequency and pick up the pace, the network plans to tell advertisers at its New York upfront presentation Tuesday at the Manhattan Center Studios

BET has taken some hits from critics accusing it of pandering to a younger audience by cutting back on news programming, so its decision to drop its 11 p.m. newscast could stir the pot once again.

But BET says it is responding to viewer requests for more updates on current events, and that it will drop its 11 p.m. half-hour BET Nightly News Program in favor of spreading the information out over the whole day through news briefs, which will air between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. each day, in addition to the news specials it currently runs and a revamped commitment to network web site

That would certainly jive with the news and information approach of Current, the new youth-targeted channel from former Veep Al Gore and legal services guru Joel Hyatt. Their plan is to deliver the whole channel, news and entertainment, in short, easily surfable and digestible segments.

BET is also considering plans for a weekend news magazine or analysis show, according to President and COO Debra Lee.

BET gets its news content from co-owned CBS News.

Already panned in some quarters for relying on youth-targeted music videos, the network came under fire in late 2002 when it canceled some of its news and public-affairs programming, including BET Tonight With Ed Gordon.

To counter that criticism, the network pointed to results, saying it was the top destination for African-Americans on TV, though that claim is now challenged by rival African-American-targeting network TV One, which launched in January 2004.

BET will continue airing its current news specials, including quarterly urban issues show The Cousin Jeff Chronicles, which premiered this year, and town-hall style BET Open Mic.

Additionally, will stream video of the network’s news briefs and carry interactive areas of news and analysis, opinion polls, and links to other news services.

BET reaches about 80 million households in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.

For first-quarter 2005, the network averaged 574,000 total viewers in prime, about even with first-quarter 2004, when it averaged 572,000.