Facing Increased Competition, BET Attempts To Win Back Audiences & Advertisers w/ Original Programming

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
April 18, 2012 9:54 PM
6 Comments
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I've already given props to BET for its latest original programming efforts, as next season's lineup was revealed publicly about a week ago, getting many of you excited about the potential.

Obviously, there's still work to be done, but the network appears to be making the kinds of strides that countless black audiences have been calling for over the last decade.

Remember Hot Ghetto Mess? Later changed to We Got to Do Better, after all the backlash that followed after its initial airing; and to think that was less than 5 years ago! Not too long in the past - the fall of 2007 specifically. 

And in early 2012, the network announced its pickups of mature, complex material like Ava DuVernay's Middle Of Nowhere, and Sheldon Candis' LUV (both will be TV premieres), along with bringing former CNN anchor T.J. Holmes onboard to host a late night series, as well as a new hour-long drama series from the Akils, and more. 

Change is here, right?

Will BET see a return to the network, by disappointed audiences that left it years ago, after years of unappealing programming? Will they lose audiences who prefer the old BET, or have they already lost them? Is there a balancing act that the network will have to maintain in order to try and keep everyone happy? Should it even try? After all, you really can't please everyone all the time.

Like I said, these are all relatively new developments, so who knows what the network will look like in 5 to 10 years? Who knows what the black TV marketplace will look like, given the number of new networks that have been announced in the last year? How many of them will survive? 

One thing we can be sure of is that the field just got even more competitive, and that's usually a good thing for the consumer. 

But time will tell.

I came across this report from Ad Age magazine which attempts to answer some of these questions I posed, especially the question of whether the rise in the number of new networks appealing to black audiences will encourage ad spending to reach that demo.

Here's a snip:

Viacom's BET has been the only real juggernaut in African-American TV programming in more than 30 years, but the network is about to get its first real taste of competition. Among its challenges are cable networks from Magic Johnson and Sean "Diddy" Combs backed by Comcast, a doubling of the content slate at TV One and the launch of several local networks targeting minorities.

BET is responding by beefing up its investment in scripted programming and making its first foray into original movies.

But the crucial question is whether advertisers, with more opportunities to target the demo, will increase their budgets in the African-American market or simply take money out of BET.

"Just because more supply is added doesn't mean advertisers will increase their budget, but if these new networks substantially grow ratings, [advertisers] might put in more money," said Rob Bochicchio, exec VP-chief media investment officer at ID Media.

BET is in a better position to retain advertiser support than it was a few years ago, when ratings were at a standstill and the network was perceived as a riskier place for ads.

In 2007, it faced backlash for the comedy series "Hot Ghetto Mess." The show evoked scorn from the black community, and several big advertisers pulled out.

Read the rest of the piece HERE.

Television
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6 Comments

  • james evans from the cabrini-green projects | April 19, 2012 2:23 AMReply

    Tambay, here is the main problem that eludes the top brass at BET: BET is attempting new, dramatic stories, **but their storytellers remain the same.** The Akils?? Really? Really!?? They are lowest-common-denominator-moneymakers, but they are not storytellers; that includes all others under the employ of the network. If BET really wants to tap a new vein of storytelling, they need to hire all new blood, real storytellers with a grasp on beginning, middle and end, wit, edge, and subtext. Unfortunately, they are shortsighted in this regard. Check back with this comment in a year to see if BET has broken any new ground with these upcoming shows. My prediction: when BET finally DOES make it to the Promised Land of the Emmys, it will NOT be because of anyone working there at this present moment. Until then, with genuine hope for my people, I raise my alcoholic beverage to their good intentions.

  • CareyCarey | April 19, 2012 11:47 AM

    DYN-O-MITE! Ain't we lucky we got'em... GOOD TIMES! Well Mr. Evens, you have just about summed it up. Now, if I can use a phrase we're all too familiar with... "you can take a negro out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the negro". That's right, you said it ... "lowest-common-denominator-moneymakers". That's right, they have a nice title and they probably living in a nice neighborhood but... let's sing it together.... Temporary lay offs.... Good Times. Easy credit (and programs)rip offs... Good Times. Scratchin' and surviving, sneakin and lyin'... Good Times. Hangin in a chow line... Good Times. Ain't we lucky we got 'em.... the Akils and GOOD TIMES! Yep, don't make your move to soon, we're not out of the projects.

  • Jmac | April 18, 2012 10:33 PMReply

    I'm still not watching despite the changes. It only comes from pressure without not a fundamental change from within. They'd still throw some Hot Ghetto Mess out there in a year or two if the things they're doing now isn't giving them the money they want. I'd rather put my money in the pockets of people who are willing to stick to their guns (produce quality programming) regardless of big bucks or pandering to certain low class markets.

  • SayNay | April 18, 2012 10:18 PMReply

    For some folks it might be "too little, too late". BET has been irrelevant for a long time, and while programs like The Game and those other sitcoms have drawn in some numbers, what else has been on the network. I might give these new shows a chance, but will hold them to the same standard as all the new shows I pick up each season.

  • Rodney | April 18, 2012 10:13 PMReply

    Why does the media always describe Magic’s and Diddy’s new channels as “backed by Comcast”? I haven’t read anywhere that Comcast was investing money into them. They’ve only committed to launch them. To survive, let alone challenge BET, they’ll need distribution on more than just Comcast and will require a TON of money. Witness the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into OWN from its two very well-heeled backers, Oprah and Discovery.

  • Mark | April 19, 2012 10:43 PM

    Comcast is sponsoring the channels. To get the support of African-American and Latino American groups to support Comcast's acquisition of NBC-Universal, Comcast agreed to invest in the creation of minority focused networks.

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