BET (Black Entertainment Television) is a ViacomCBS-owned cable network based in Washington, D.C.. It was one of the first channels to specialize in programming for African-Americans. The network was launched on January 25, 1980, by its founder, Robert L. Johnson. For years it primarily showcased music videos by black artists (with a strong leaning towards hip-hop and pop-R&B), public interest programs such as Teen Summit, and even a nightly news broadcast.
Viacom acquired BET in 2001. In the same year, it hosted the inaugural BET Awards, to honor black contributions to the media and sports. However, since Viacom's acquisition, BET's schedule was reduced to syndicated reruns, B-movies, and reality shows. In time, the network phased out its music programming: music videos became exclusive to its spinoff channels; BET's flagship series, 106 & Park, ended its run in 2014; and the last Notarized countdown aired in the same year. In addition, many black leaders have accused BET of promoting black stereotypes and corrupting the youth, and because of this, the network had to censor music videos with inappropriate content.
On the upside, BET has produced a few notable first-run shows such as The Game (2006) (following its Channel Hop from The CW, becoming BET's biggest show in the process), Real Husbands of Hollywood, and drama series Being Mary Jane. The ratings success of The Game inspired BET's push towards more scripted fare.
On Sundays, BET shows gospel-oriented programming under the BET Rejoices branding (previously BET Inspiration). In 2008, it established The BET Honors to honor the lives of important black figures. Other tentpole events seen on the network include: BET Hip Hop Awards (since 2006), Black Girls Rock! (since 2010), and the Celebration of Gospel (since 2001).
The network has gone on to spawn a number of spinoffs.
- BET Her - A general entertainment network targeting African-American women. Originally launched in 1996 as BET on Jazz (focused on R&B and jazz music) and was later known as Centric (originally focused on general programming for adult African-Americans) from 2009-2017.
- BET Movies: Starz! - A multiplex of Starz focusing on black movies that was launched in 1997 as a joint venture. After Viacom's purchase of BET in 2001, the branding was dropped and BET ended its involvement.
- SHO×BET - A rebrand of Showtime "Beyond" (previously devoted to science fiction programming) which plays a mix of BET and Showtime original programming. Launched in 2020.
- BET Hip-Hop - A network that airs Hip-Hop related programming, launched in 2002.
- BET Gospel - A network dedicated to Gospel-related programming, launched in 2002.
- BET Jams - Originally launched as a spinoff of MTV, airing Urban-genre music videos. On October 5, 2015, the network re-aligned itself under the BET brand.
- BET Soul - Originally a spinoff of VH1, devoted to soul, R&B and funk music. The network changed its name on December 28, 2015.
- BET Action - Originally known as Action Pay-Per-View, a PPV service dedicated to action-adventure programming, BET bought it in 1993 and rebranded it as BET Action in 1994, by which point it was showing less action films and more soft-core porn and the like. It wasnt part of the Viacom deal (due to the general stranglehold In Demand had on the PPV market at the time), and was instead sold off to another PPV firm, TVN, which shut it down shortly after.
- BET+ - An OTT streaming service launched in 2019 as a joint venture with Tyler Perry, featuring new content and BET archive programming.
BET-branded channels were also added to Pluto TV after that service was bought by Viacom in 2019.
Notable Original Shows
- 106 & Park (2000-14): Named for the original location of the studio in Harlem (at the intersection of 106th St. and Park Avenue). It was BET's longtime flagship program.
- Being Mary Jane (2013-15, 2017, 2019): BET's first scripted drama, created by Mara Brock Akil and starring Gabrielle Union.
- Black Panther (2010): Based on the Marvel Comics character.
- Bobby Jones Gospel (1980-2016)
- ComicView (1992-2008, 2014)
- The Game (2011-15; previously on The CW)
- Games People Play (2019-present)
- Hey Monie (BET's first animated series; 2003)
- House of Payne (2020-present; previously on TBS)
- Let's Stay Together (BET's first original live-action comedy; 2011-14)
- Lift Every Voice (1999-2017)
- The Mo'Nique Show (Talk show; 2009-11)
- The New Edition Story (2017)
- Punk'd (2015 revival, hosted by King Bach and DeStorm Power)
- Rap City (1989-2008; before The Basement was added)
- Real Husbands of Hollywood (2013-16)
- The Rundown with Robin Thede (2017-18): Hosted by the former head writer and correspondent of Comedy Central's The Nightly Show
- Sunday Best (2007-15, 2019-20; gospel music competition)
- Teen Summit (1989-2002)
Notable Syndicated shows:
- The Bernie Mac Show
- The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
- Everybody Hates Chris
- Tyler Perry's House of Payne
- Meet The Browns
- The Jamie Foxx Show
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
- Family Matters
- In Living Color!
- The Parkers
- The Real
- The Wendy Williams Show