Symonds departing BET


In the first major departure following Black Entertainment Television's sale to Viacom, affilate sales chief Curtis Symonds is leaving the company.

Symonds, executive vice president of affiliate sales, is one of the most senior and best known black executives in the cable industry. BET said only that Symonds was leaving "to explore other business opportunities".

So far Viacom has treated BET as a distinct operation, trying to avoid limit outcry about a white-controlled company buying the only major black network. But Viacom's MTV Networks heavily centralizes its affiliate operation, so industry executives expect Symonds' turf to be the first to get stepped on. Also, Symonds had aspired to more than affiliate sales, with BET Chairman Bob Johnson making him president of BET Action Pay Per View. But Viacom unloaded that operation earlier this month.

Symonds first joined BET in 1988 as head of affiliate sales and marketing. Earlier he worked in affilate sales for ESPN and ran Continental Cablevision's Ohio systems.
-John Higgins