BET Pushes Ongoing Rebranding at Upfront

Malcolm Jamal-Warner headlines newest comedy

The message at BET’s upfront in the heart of Times Square last night was articulated within the first 30 seconds of the evening. “Simply put,” said BET president and CEO Debrah L. Lee. “It’s a brand-new game for BET networks.”

Two years ago, BET embarked on a vast rebranding effort, soliciting feedback via a survey of 83,000 viewers and subsequently bringing in new talent and programming to meet demand uncovered in that process. “Our audience wanted us to respect them, reflect their lifestyle, and elevate them to a better place,” said BET president of media sales Louis Carr. “Each of us is different. Our audience may say, ‘I’m a highly educated and sophisticated Harvard grad. Respect that. But my cousin may be struggling, trying to make it from day to day.’ Wherever they are in their lives, respect it.”

To that end, BET went about buying programming that reflected what its market research suggested the audience was clamoring for, including more family-oriented programming.

The newest comedy on BET's schedule, premiering this fall, is “Reed Between the Lines,” about an English professor husband and a psychologist wife working to raise a family. Network executives call it “the second coming of Cosby” (in fact, the series stars former Cosby kid Malcolm Jamal-Warner as the pater familias). BET will also debut a new four-part documentary called The Message, chronicling the history of hip-hop.

Among the BET programs returning for another season are the Top 10 hip-hop music video countdown program 106 & Park and Wendy Williams' talk show.