Centric Resets Lineup

Nearly a year after its
launch, African-American targeted
network Centric is hoping
to ramp up its programming
lineup with new original shows,
including a daily strip series featuring
actor and radio talk show
host Steve Harvey.

Centric general manager Paxton
Baker said he’s “pleased” with
the development of the channel
— a partnership between MTV
Networks properties BET and
VH1, targeted to 25-to-54-yearold
African-American viewers —
since its launch last September.
The network, formerly BET J, is
currently in 44.8 million homes —
up from approximately 32 million
subscribers at launch, according
to Baker. Much of the distribution
gain has come from additional
subscriber launches in Comcast
systems and carriage of its HD
channel on Dish Network.

The network did not absorb
subscribers from VH1’s R&Bthemed
music channel VH1
Soul, as had been widely expected.
“It was myth that Centric
was a merger of [VH1 Soul
and BET J] — VH1 Soul is obviously
still on the air,” Baker
said. “It’s a partnership with
VH1 in which they do the marketing,
so it’s a coming together
of the two entities.”

Initially the network’s programming
consisted of off-BET
and VH1 series like I Wanna Work
for Diddy and Run’s House, as well
as sitcom acquisitions such as The
Steve Harvey Show, The A-Team,
The Proud Family, Miami Vice
and the Soul Train music/variety
series. Earlier this year, the
network focused on original programming
fare with the launch of
reality competition series Model
City, and celebreality series Keeping
Up With the Joneses and Keith
Sweat’s Platinum House, the latter
of which focused on the reunion
of ’90s R&B group Dru Hill.

Baker said the network will
continue to build its original
programming lineup in October
with the launch of The Steve
Harvey Project, a daily series
that will feature a simulcast of
the actor’s nationally syndicated
radio show. The one-hour
show will also include comedy
skits and other content developed
by Harvey, according
to Baker.

“The Steve Harvey Project is like
[The] Howard Stern [Show] meets
[The] Mo’nique [Show]. It will feature
skits, comedy and interviews,
and will serve that’s our
big driver for the fall. We’re putting
a lot of energy behind that,”
Baker said.

The network will also produce
its second Soul Train Music
Awards telecast, which will
be simulcast on both BET and
Centric on Nov. 28, according to
Baker. The awards show, which
will again be hosted by actors
Terrence Howard and Taraji P.
Henson, will honor the musical
careers of Ronald Isley and Anita

The Nov. 29, 2009 telecast of
the awards show drew 4 million
viewers on BET. (Centric was
not Nielsen rated until this past

The network will also add a
music countdown show later
this year as well as concert performances
from classic and contemporary
R&B artists.

Baker is hoping that the combination
of acquired and original
fare will boost ratings for
the Viacom-owned network,
which averaged 60,000 viewers
in primetime last month.

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.