Upfronts 2013: BET Looks to Defend Its Territory

CompleteCoverage: Upfronts 2013

With a rash of new competitors aiming at the
African-American market, BET is telling advertisers, "You Look Better on BET."

The network, which made an upfront presentation in Chicago
on Thursday, is also launching a new initiative called B-Real, designed to help
marketers better understand and engage African-American women .

With Oprah Winfrey's OWN cable network gaining traction with
African-American viewers, Bounce TV picking up advertisers on broadcast and
Magic Johnson and P. Diddy backing new channels, long-time leader BET isn't
ignoring its rivals.

"We're going to let them know they are in a fight," said
Louis Carr, BET's president of ad sales. BET has been cultivating the
African-American TV audience for 30 years, investing in research and
programming. "We built it. We're not letting it go," Carr said.

During his presentation, Carr pointed to research on
engagement with African-Americans that showed BET was the No. 1 among 400 media
brands they were unwilling to give up.  BET
beat ESPN by 22%, TV One by 41% and OWN by 89%. BET's Centric network beat OWN
by 7%.

Carr said Winfrey may have invented emotional attachment to
TV, but "clearly in cable, she's got some work to do."

When it comes to the $1 trillion in buying power of African-American
consumers, BET viewers control about $600 billion of that, which represents an
awful lot of electronic gadgets, running shoes, movie tickets, health and
beauty products and quick-service restaurant meals, Carr said, as a large
dollar bill with his face on it was displayed.

BET has particularly strong ties to African-American women,
who are disproportionately the heads of their households and the decision-makers
on purchasers, said Vick Free, BET's chief marketing officer. With its B-Real
program, BET will get advertisers to set up brunches for African-American women
to get together with their friends to discuss life and the products they use,
giving marketers access and insights into how women feel about their products. Other
B-Real events will include celebrities such as Diahann Carroll and Queen Latifah.
BET will also put together multiplatform media packages designed to reach
African-Americans via interstitials on V, BET.com microsites and social media,
Free said.

BET also outlined its upcoming programming, including its
first scripted drama, Being Mary Jane,
starring Gabrielle Union; the new talk show T.D.
Jakes: Mind, Body and Soul
; and the renewal of its top sitcom The Game.

and J. Drew Sheard, stars of the reality show The Sheards, performed at the Chicago upfront.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.