You might say this network gives cable TV some street cred. Black Entertainment Television operates BET, the leading cable channel targeting young African-American audiences with a mix of entertainment, music, and news programming. Reaching about 92 million US homes, BET boasts a lineup that includes music videos, award shows, reality shows, scripted series, and gospel music programs. The network is the flagship property of BET Networks, which includes sister outlets BET Gospel, BET Hip Hop, and Centric (targeting multicultural viewers). Launched in 1980, BET is owned by media conglomerate Viacom.
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BET, like other cable outlets in the Viacom family, appeals to a specific audience segment with targeted programming. The network also fills an important role as one of only a handful (but a growing number) of media properties that target minority audiences.
BET's cable networks, which generate revenue primarily through advertising and carriage fees paid by cable system operators, account for about 60% of Viacom's business.
For most of its history BET has been anchored by music video shows, but the channel has followed the lead of sister network MTV and other networks by investing in original entertainment programming to attract and retain viewers. In 2013 BET Networks struck a deal with Disney- ABC Television Group to license the rights to air current-season episodes of the series Scandal. BET is also licensing the exclusive off-network cable rights to the series starting in fall of 2014.
BET was founded by entrepreneur and former cable lobbyist Robert Johnson. Along with Liberty Media, he sold the growing media empire to Viacom for $3 billion in 2001. (Johnson later became the first black majority owner of a sports team when he bought the NBA expansion Charlotte Bobcats. He sold control of the franchise in 2010.)
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