BET's Gadson Steps Down; Net Shifts Primetime Focus

Viacom Inc.-owned Black Entertainment Television is restructuring its programming lineup and department.

Executive vice president of entertainment programming Curtis Gadson will exit, BET said, as the network shifts its primetime strategy toward the acquisition of syndicated and off-network programming.

Gadson's departure — first reported two weeks ago by Multichannel News
comes as he considers "other options within parent company Viacom" or possibly launches "an independent production company."

However, sources said Gadson — who spent a decade at BET and was responsible for several of the network's signature shows, including BET Walk of Fame
and The BET Awards
— had a falling out with BET president and COO Debra Lee over the network's future programming direction.

Gadson's departure is tied to an overall shift in programming strategy that will place a greater emphasis on the acquisition of syndicated programming, according to Lee. No deals are yet in place, said BET spokesman Michael Llewellen, but the network "wants to be in a position to pursue" syndicated inventory from several outlets, including broadcast and cable entities.

In the past, BET has talked of using its synergistic ties with Viacom to obtain programming from sister services, like Showtime's Soul Food.

The changes would continue BET's shift from the music-video programming that dominated its primetime lineup until a couple of years ago, and was a source of criticism from viewers and industry observers.

BET vice president of music programming Stephen Hill, network vice president of network operations Gina Holland and BET vice president of sports and specials Jacque Coleman will manage the entertainment-programming division until Gadson's successor is found, the network said.

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.