In 2011, the CEO of BET, Debra Lee stated that she was on a mission to change the brand of BET by reflecting positive images of people of color. “Our programming now has to have a message that can’t be derogatory and has to show positive images. The goal was to develop entertaining and engaging programming by eliminating derogatory content that painted a less than appealing picture of the black community.
“Our new brand strategy: We respect, reflect and elevate our audience. They want to be entertained, but they also want to be inspired.” – Debra Lee
Here we are 5 years later, and it is clear that Lee has successfully reinvigorated the company’s brand. BET has unveiled it’s 2016 programming slate at the upfront presentation in New York, and has firmly established itself as a major player in the scripted programming game. Their 2016 slate includes a TV movie, a miniseries, a 2-hour backdoor pilot, and four new scripted original projects. These new projects are an addition to the hit series Being Mary Jane created by Mara Brock Akil and Kevin Hart’s passion project The Real Husbands of Hollywood. It was also announced yesterday that BET will air an anthology series by Tidal and Irv Gotti, Tales, an hour-long show, which is described as a “ ‘song series’ weaving classic hip-hop songs into 3-act narratives.”
“It’s a really exciting time for us and the goal is to continue to do what’s working. We’re always aware of competition and we’ve have this audience that now everyone his interested in for 36 years, and we do it 24 hours a day everyday. Our audiences are demanding more content and more options. It’s incumbent upon us to keep fresh content coming all year long.” – Debra Lee
It looks as if BET will continue making strides towards appealing to all segments of the black community by including a diverse range of quality shows to it’s ever expanding programming slate. In addition to new programming, BET will relaunch its BET.com and BET Now App on April 27.
Below is a detailed look at BET Networks’ 2016 programming from the press release:
ORIGINAL SCRIPTED PROGRAMMING ON BET:
TALES – From executive producer Irv Gotti Lorenzo comes “TALES,” a 60-minute scripted anthology series of “song stories” weaving classic hip-hop songs into visually stunning 3-act narratives. Far beyond the music video or the live event, “TALES” brings hip-hop alive in a completely new way for television. With “TALES,” each song’s lyrics are imagined as cinematic adventures with a different director and screenwriter per song story. The series is a multi-platform cross-collaboration with TIDAL, the global music and entertainment platform, where the director’s cut versions of each episode will live exclusively after premiering on BET. Subscribers will be able to stream the series on their web browser or through the TIDAL mobile app. “TALES” is produced and created by Irv Gotti and his Visionary Ideas production company.
THE YARD (previously announced) – Starring Tony Award winners Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, The Princess and The Frog) and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Billions, American Gangster) along with actors Jazz Raycole (The Soul Man, My Wife and Kids) and newcomer Peyton Alex Smith, “THE YARD” is a dynamic scripted dramatic show that takes viewers inside the unique, culture-filled world of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). “THE YARD” follows ambitious yet troubled Dr. Eva Fletcher (Rose), the newly-elected President of the fictional Georgia A&M University. Upon arriving, Eva is charged with saving the prestigious HBCU from bankruptcy and her twenty-year marriage from crumbling while managing a tumultuous relationship with her rebellious only daughter. A diverse group of freshman also promises to keep Eva’s hands full. The multi-talented cast also includes TV icon Jasmine Guy and Sean Blakemore (“General Hospital”) as well as exciting emerging talents—Zoe Renee, Michelle DeFraites, Erica Michelle, Jake Allyn, Larry Rhem, and E. Roger Mitchell. The emotionally-charged series is created by Felicia D. Henderson (Gossip Girl, Soul Food) and Charles Holland (CSI: Miami, NY Undercover), based on a concept created by Rob Hardy (How To Get Away With Murder, Power). The show is executive produced by Henderson and Hardy, who will also direct. Hardy executive produced Stomp The Yard. Co-executive producers on the project include Holland, Will Packer and Mitzi Miller. “THE YARD” is production of Rainforest Entertainment and WaterWalk Productions in conjunction with BET Networks.
BENCHED – “BENCHED” is a one-hour original scripted dramedy about a reluctant, recently appointed judge who is not quite ready to give up his life as bachelor to begin a new life as a public servant. Each week, he confronts the underbelly of the criminal justice system that has derailed a generation of African Americans, including those close to him – as he upholds the tenets of the same system. “BENCHED” is created by Scott Brown.
REBEL – “REBEL” is an extraordinary take on the seminal police drama that examines the unique and conflicted relationship officers of color have with their jobs – at a time when police forces are rife with brutality and misconduct. Oakland police officer, Rebecca “Rebel” Cole, has always excelled by playing by the rules. She has always known that she must be better and smarter on the job because she is both black and female. After her brother is slain by police, Rebel soon becomes disillusioned with the system and is forced to take matters into her own hands and become a private investigator and a champion for her community. Caught between family loyalty and the fraternity in blue, Rebel’s actions set in motion a cause-and-effect crisis that can’t be undone. “REBEL” is produced by Mar Vista Entertainment for BET and co-written, executive produced and directed by visionary filmmaker John Singleton. Dallas Jackson also serves as Executive Producer.
COMEDY GETDOWN – “COMEDY GET DOWN” is the first scripted comedy series about what really happens behind the scenes of a massive stand-up comedy tour featuring five legendary comics – George Lopez, DL Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin and Charlie Murphy. They’re hilarious, insane and unapologetic on stage, but the second they step off is when the real show begins. The storylines are based on actual events that have taken place not only on their wildly successful Comedy Get Down arena tour, but throughout the 25 plus years each has been a nationally headlining comedian. A workplace comedy at its core, the 30 minute, single-camera series explores the personal and professional relationships of these five comic titans as they navigate the challenges of life on the road: seedy venues, racist road managers, pushy wives, angry baby mamas, obsessive fans, demanding celebrities, shady politicians and more. Free 90 Media’s Tom Brunelle and Brad Wollack serve as Executive Producers along with 3 Arts’ Michael Rotenberg, Greg Walter and Kimberly Carver. Eric C. Rhone from A Bird and A Bear Entertainment also serves as an Executive Producer.
UNSCRIPTED PROGRAMMING ON BET:
MUSIC MOGULS – Birdman. Dame Dash. Jermaine Dupri. Snoop Dogg. They’ve spent the last 20 years making hits, stars and headlines, as well as laying the foundation for some of today’s biggest acts. Although they’ve sold millions of records and taken the risks to live the life of a mogul, not every calculation yields the desired return. Over eight 60-minute episodes, this hard-hitting docu-series takes you into their lives as each entrepreneur navigates both familiar and new territory – from grooming new talent and building new empires to raising their college-bound children. Being a music mogul is grown man business; learn what it takes to stay at the top of the game. Music Moguls is produced by L. Plummer Media (The Westbrooks, Preachers of LA, Living with Funny) with Lemuel Plummer, Bryan “Birdman” Williams, Snoop Dogg and Chad Greulach serving as Executive Producers.
GARY OWEN FAMILY – Gary Owen is arguably Black America’s most beloved non-Black comic. He became part of the family as the first Caucasian man to host BET’s ComicView, and confirmed he was here to stay with his star turns in the Think Like A Man films, Ride Along and Meet The Blacks. He also starred in his own hit stand-up comedy specials including I Agree With Myself, True Story and the upcoming I Got My Associates. Now, he brings his own interracial and blended family to BET in a 30-minute unscripted series that is colorful, truthful and hysterical. Gary Owen loves his wife so much, he wants to marry her again – and the path down the aisle is paved with non-stop laughter as he balances planning a wedding with raising his three rambunctious children and growing his white-hot career. “GARY OWEN FAMILY” is produced by Bunim/Murray Productions. Bunim/Murray’s Gil Goldschein and Jeff Jenkins serve as Executive Producers along with Gary Owen, Stella Bulochnikov, Brian Sher and TIP “T.I.” Harris.
JOYFUL NOISE – “JOYFUL NOISE” is the gospel music hour that delivers the perfect blend of performances from today’s gospel super stars, rising new artists, powerful personal testimonies and insightful man-on-the-street interviews with the inspirational Willie Moore Jr. Hosted by one of gospel music’s most gifted artists, two-time GRAMMY®, Soul Train, Dove and Stellar Award winner Tye Tribbett, this series is sure to strengthen the genre’s appeal with younger audiences, while honoring the core values of its rich traditions. The radical singer, songwriter, and preacher who’s known for his edgy and energetic live performances and hosting abilities, continues to shatter the mold of what is traditionally known as Gospel music. A true innovator, with one of the most relevant voices of this generation, Tribbett is set to create a dynamic new caliber of hosting. In addition to a variety of musical performances, each show will also feature a power-filled sermonette by one of the nation’s leading pastors, setting the tone for a more compelling worship experience. Finally, “JOYFUL NOISE” will showcase amazing local churches from around the nation, giving viewers the opportunity to get their hometown church featured on the show. “JOYFUL NOISE” is guaranteed to deliver the kind of entertainment that feeds the spirit and uplifts the soul.
ONE SHOT – “ONE SHOT” is a high-octane hip hop lyrical competition series hosted by Sway Calloway, iconic hip hop personality and radio host. Sway leads a panel of hip hop legends in a nationwide quest for the next explosive hip hop star with mass appeal, on-the-fly musicianship and command of the stage. Neither battle show nor glossy newcomer search, “ONE SHOT” provides the first and only dynamic platform for America’s best rising hip hop talent. Each contestant’s main competition can be found in the mirror. Sway serves as Executive Producer along with Mike Smith, Dominick Wickliffe p/k/a “Kxng Crooked”, Rod Sepand p/k/a “King Tech”, Nancy Nayor and Dean Hadaegh. Zach Hermann and Erika Smith serve as Co-Executive Producers. Julie Insogna Jarrett and Seth Jarrett will also serve as Executive Producers for production company, Jarrett Creative.
MOVIE EVENTS ON BET:
NEW EDITION: THE MOVIE (previously announced)- New Edition laid the foundation for how modern-day boy bands look, feel, and sound. Boyz II Men, N’SYNC, The Backstreet Boys, and New Kids On The Block all took their cues from Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ralph and Johnny. After 30 years of breaking hearts on the record and from the stage, New Edition finally gets the biopic that their stellar tenure in entertainment so richly deserves. This 3-part miniseries follows the group from their humble beginnings as kids in Boston to global megastardom – weathering the highs and lows of controversy, personnel changes, and the ultimate cost of fame. Bryshere Gray (Empire), Elijah Kelley (The Butler, The Wiz Live!), Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Luke James, Keith Powers (Straight Outta Compton), Algee Smith (Let It Shine) and Woody McClain(Autographs) have joined the cast to bring the iconic music group’s legend to life. Written by Abdul Williams (Lottery Ticket), “NEW EDITION: THE MOVIE” is executive produced by Jesse Collins Entertainment (Real Husbands of Hollywood) and directed by Chris Robinson (ATL).
MADIBA – BET partners with executive producers Lance Samuels, Kweku Mandela and Daniel Iron for an original production that focuses on the story of Nelson Mandela, the globally beloved humanitarian, as well as the many other leaders of the African National Congress — Oliver Tambo (Orlando Jones) and Walter Sisulu (David Harewood) — who fought alongside Mandela in the multi-racial, multi-national movement that led to the end of South African apartheid. Academy Award® nominee Laurence Fishburne completely transforms in the lead role, under the direction of Kevin Hooks (Passenger 57, Prison Break), who also serves as Executive Producer.
NEW PROGRAMMING ON CENTRIC:
QUEEN BEE – Entrepreneurs are an enormous force in American business and culture, and African American women are among the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs in the nation. They have the ideas, the creativity, and the drive, but too often they fly under the radar and don’t get the mentoring and capital they need to launch their product or take their company to the next level. Developed by Jon Housman, Ora TV, and SWSI, this ground-breaking reality competition series discovers amazing entrepreneurs building real-life companies, and then challenges them to take their skills to the next level. Mentored – and put to the test – by a panel of celebrities and successful entrepreneurs, our contestants will go through a series of intense challenges in an effort to win the competition – and a potentially life-changing opportunity to become Queen Bee. Jon Housman and Jamie Schutz serve as Executive Producers.
MONICA MORTON – On Centric, real women are stars. This year, we meet the real-life investigator and crisis manager that scandal-plagued celebrities and athletes already rely upon: MONICA MORTON, P.I. With her pistol in one hand and lipstick in the other, Monica uses her quick wit and sharp tongue to solve cases in this unscripted series. Mike Sinclair is Executive Producer.