BET's newfound focus on scripted programming this year seems to be paying modest dividends. The network's prime-time viewership rose 6 percent to 821,000 year over year, according to Nielsen. However, the network's average total day audience remained flat for the year, at 509,000 viewers (up from 506,000 in 2010).
The ratings bump comes after the network added two new scripted series to its previous roster of one. In January, Let's Stay Together made its debut, and then in October, BET premiered Reed Between the Lines, starring ex-Cosby kid Malcolm-Jamal Warner. This year, the network's first scripted series, The Game, entered its fourth season.
It was three years ago that BET embarked on a huge focus-group-driven research campaign aimed at changing the network's programming focus. What emerged, at the end of the year-and-a-half initiative, was a shift away from the music videos that had previously served as BET's bread and butter, and toward original programming.
Sources at the network said that BET has more than one scripted series in development for next year.