MTVN Absorbs BET Affiliate Duties

Viacom Inc.-owned Black Entertainment Television Friday eliminated 14 jobs in a restructuring effort to integrate affiliate sales, marketing and advertising sales under MTV Networks, BET officials said.

BET senior vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Donovan Gordon will continue to manage the network’s affiliate strategies and report to BET chief operating officer Debra Lee, but he will also work closely with MTVN executive VP of cable distribution and marketing Peter Low and MTVN president of affiliate sales and marketing Nicole Browning.

The 14 employees, about 4% of BET’s work force, will be given opportunities to pursue open positions at BET and with other Viacom companies.

“We gain the strategic benefits of being a direct part of being the MTV affiliate organization instead of being a stand-alone,” BET senior VP of corporate communications Michael Lewellen said Monday.

MTVN’s clout already has benefited BET: Its EchoStar Communications Corp. carriage deal was extended last spring as part of MTVN’s new umbrella carriage deal.

The affiliate-relations move could foreshadow MTVN’s full absorption of the African-American-targeted network. When Viacom bought BET in 2000, BET chairman Robert Johnson insisted that it remain autonomous. But Johnson’s Viacom contract expires at the end of the year, and there is some speculation that MTVN could end up overseeing all of BET’s operations, although BET officials said there are no plans to cede programming and marketing efforts to MTVN.

BET also promoted several executives, including senior programming executive Seven Hill to executive VP of entertainment and music programming, research executive Matthew Barnhill to senior VP of market research and Lewellen to his current title.

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.