BET Networks emphasized its scripted comedies and high profile special events during its upfront presentation in Chicago Thursday.
The network said this season’s hits, The Game and Let’s Stay Together, would return next year, joined by a new sitcom, Reed Between the Lines, starring Malcolm Jamal Warner from The Cosby Show and Tracee Ellis Ross from Girlfriends.
“We’re bringing some of the most beloved TV stars back on a new scripted show,” said Loretha Jones, president of original programming. “It combines the heart and humor of The Cosby Show with a fresh take on the modern black family.”
The sudden surge from the sitcoms has powered BET’s ratings, and given the network its theme for this year’s upfront: It’s a Brand New Game.
Chairman and CEO Debra Lee said BET now has “more original scripted programming, more incredible performances and more ways for you to connect with the audience you want the most.” She also pitched the ratings growth at Centric, BET’s network aimed at the 25 to 54 year old audience.
President for ad sales Louis Carr told media buyers and clients BET’s live ratings and its C3 ratings were the same, which means that viewers aren’t tuning out TV commercials. And according to BET’s continuing research, African-American’s contributed $5.6 billion to the movie business — watching movies whether or not they had African-American stories, casts or stars. “If you want to open a movie big, you’ve got to be in 106 and Park,” he said.
Carr added that BET’s specials draw African-American audiences that can’t be matched elsewhere. Those specials include Black Girls Rock, which is returning for a second year, and The BET Awards. Carr said he had only six spots left in the BET Awards, which air June 26, having sold two after BET’s recent presentation in Los Angeles.
BET is also planning a four-part, four-hour documentary on Hip Hop called The Message.
BET Digital President Denmark West talked about new online web programs including The Come Up, Odessa , Asylum and Lenox Avenue that are part of a redesigned BET.com. BET also recently introduce an iPad app for 106 & Park that allows viewers to interact with the show.
When the lunchtime presentation finished, R&B star Eric Benet sang a song, and took pictures with media buyers.
BET will present its upfront plans to buyers and clients in New York next week.