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BET Analysis - December 2009


* Bold denotes programming change


The BET Monday - Friday schedule has firmed up, typically airing a movie each night at 8, with original programming or encores running at 10. Premiere nights for new series are usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays with plenty of encores scattered irregularly throughout the rest of the week. Sunday night usually hosts a mix of programming, including movies, original series encores, news specials and encores of specials.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2009 vs. December 2008  (% Change)

*Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

After a stellar year of record-breaking ratings, BET went out with a whimper this December. There was not much on the air to pop the numbers, and core adults 18-49 ratings fell 26% vs. last month and 7% vs. last year. Perhaps worst of all, median age rose to the highest level on our records - nearing the high end of the 18-34 spectrum.

Fortunately, the year was strong enough that December did not affect the full year '09 vs. '08 comparisons, and BET was in the column of most-improved cable nets for the year.

But back to December, and what happened (or didn't) there. The month started out with THE UNIT still running all night on Mondays, pulling in the lowest demo ratings on the line-up. In the third and fourth weeks it was put out of its misery with movies and a Beyonce special.

Tuesdays took the worst hit, with a 56% adult 18-49 ratings decline vs. last month and a 36% hit vs. last year. Most of this loss can be attributed to last month's special premiere of THE SOUL TRAIN AWARDS. MONICA STILL STANDING was launched on the heels of the awards show last month, and while it started out strong, it has lost audience each successive week. Turns out MONICA is no KEYSHIA. Tuesdays went from being one of the strongest nights of the week to barely matching the bottom-line average this month.

THE GAME is still a BET staple, with 18 telecasts in December. The program continues its ratings descent as it dropped another 20% of its audience this month.

The two best things to happen on BET in December were a couple of SOUL TRAIN encores and a couple of movies (Crooklyn and Coming to America). Also of note was a back-to-back run of JAMIE FOXX on Saturday the 26th. In the past, BET approached December as a low-competition opportunity to air specials and annual highlights, but that was not the case this year.


As we said here before, BET is winning the game by going back to the basics. Scheduling is more consistent and predictable for viewers. Proven movies are the foundation for the primetime schedule each night. Programs that spike the ratings are scheduled multiple times throughout the week. New shows that stick to winning formats are constantly under development. And the network remains nimble enough to capture current events in its programming. With those programming basics employed to help boost the 2009 numbers, what does the network have up its sleeves for 2010?

Future plans are heavy on celebrity reality, music competition and community-building news programming.

BET continues to explore new programming genres, with some hits and a lot of misses, as it searches for those successful franchises. SOMEBODIES was a failed attempt at a scripted original drama, and BET is one of the few top rated cable networks without a scripted original on their air or on their development slate.

During the 2009/2010 upfront presentations, Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET spoke about how BET will provide its audience with "quality entertainment that speaks to where they are in their lives and where they want to go. BET's reinvigorated approach is built on supporting families, embracing and encouraging their dreams, focusing on the issues that are important to them and presenting the freshest talent and entertainment."

In September '09, the network joined Viacom in a company-wide Gates Foundation sponsored initiative that highlighted the benefits of education. Despite the low ratings, look for more social initiatives from the network that continues to add a political voice to its brand and live political coverage to the air.

With that said, the majority of the network's new programming development is focused on the music industry via the TV lens of reality and competition.