BET Dedicates $25 million to ‘Content for Change’ Initiative

ViacomCBS’s BET has launched a $25 million social justice initiative, “Content for Change,” an expansive campaign aiming to use the media plays in shaping and driving individuals’ and communities’ values, perceptions and actions on racial equality.

BET, in partnership with corporate, civil rights and social justice organizations, says it would leverage its position and platforms to positively impact social justice outcomes for Black Americans. The initiative will support the creation, distribution, marketing and promotion of content that will help drive the critical changes needed to eliminate systemic racism and inequality in America.

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“For 40 years, BET has been a unifying space for black people to be seen, heard, showcased and celebrated,” president Scott Mills said in a statement. “As many in America move more boldly and with a greater sense of urgency to address racial inequities, we will utilize the full breadth of our capabilities and partnerships to help drive this critical change.”

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Through the initiative, BET will expand relationships with and support of social justice organizations’ efforts to drive change. In addition, the network will bolster relationships with current content partners and forge relationships with up-and-coming creators to use its platform to rally the voices of Black lives, experiences and calls to action.

The campaign follows in the wake of the death of George Floyd and on the heels of the SOS COVID-19 Relief Effort, which raised $17 million, and the series of recent BET News specials.

This initiative will begin June 19, on Juneteenth — the nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States — with programming celebrating the resilience of the African-American spirit.

BET will premiere original short-form programming, including messages of inspiration, tenacity and hope from Black political leaders and activists. BET will also air inspirational movies, Selma, Marshall, Race and Do the Right Thing.

BET Unveils Programming to Address Systemic Racism, Violence Faced by Black People in America and Possible Solutions

ViacomCBS’s BET June 2 announced a series of programming addressing systemic racism, the violence faced by black people in America and the solutions it claims can help move the country forward. BET is utilizing its linear TV and over-the-top video platforms to deliver the programming.

Scott Mills, president of BET, said the programming underscores a critical need for change in America, as evidenced by the careless murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the tragic history of systemic and lethal racism and inequality in this country.

For the month of June, BET will air a series of programming specials to provide information, insights and strategies that spark meaningful dialogue and help provide solutions to eradicate the racial inequities plaguing our society.

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“We stand in steadfast solidarity with George Floyd’s family, the many victims of racist brutality, and those who are using their voices and platforms to challenge it,” Mills said in a statement. “There are no easy solutions for these systemic issues of racism, injustice, and trauma. BET is leveraging every platform and resource at our disposal to support and inform our community and help identify strategies and viable solutions in this time of crisis.”

The first special airs June 2 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. “Justice Now: A BET News Special,” hosted by Marc Lamont Hill, feature dialogue with George Floyd’s family, former NBA player Stephen Jackson, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), singer John Legend, rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris, Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, activist Tamika Mallory, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Princeton University Department of African American Studies Chairperson Eddie Glaude, Scholar Peniel E. Joseph, Emerald Garner (daughter of Eric Garner), youth activists Michael McDowell and Luis Hernandez and other African American voices in activism, politics and entertainment to reflect on the killing of Floyd on Memorial Day, the protests that have ensued and systemic racism that have led us to where are today.

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BET News will also produce “Justice Now: A BET Town Hall,” a special virtual telecast that will give voice to the collective grief, anger, fear, needs and hopes of our community and feature community leaders and activists to share their views on the reforms necessary in America’s political and criminal justice systems and the importance of voting at state and federal levels. The panel of experts will also provide tangible solutions for sustainable change. This virtual Town Hall will air later in the week.

Additionally, on June 19, BET will air a presidential forum with President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden invited to “face black America” on national television to address their concerns. Interviewed individually, Trump and Biden will be asked to address a range of critical issues, including the institutional racism that has led to disparities in housing, health, income and the law enforcement and criminal justice systems. They will be asked to provide their specific plans to improve these issues and move America forward.

BET Founder Robert L. Johnson Wants U.S. Government to Pay Blacks $14 Trillion in Reparations for Slavery

Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment (now majority owned by AMC Networks), wants the federal government to give blacks $14 trillion in cash as compensation for the country’s history of slavery.

The U.S. Census Bureau in 2018 estimated there were 47.8 million African-Americans living in a country of 327.2 million. Johnson advocates giving each black American about $293,000 each.

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Speaking on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Johnson, 74, said the funding would acknowledge the fiscal damages owed to blacks in America following a history of fiscal unfairness.

“Wealth transfer is what’s needed,” Johnson said. “Think about this: Since 200-plus-years or so of slavery, labor taken with no compensation, is a wealth transfer. Denial of access to education, which is a primary driver of accumulation of income and wealth, is a wealth transfer.”

Johnson sold BET to Viacom in 2001, becoming the country’s first black billionaire.

“Damages is a normal factor in a capitalist society for when you have been deprived for certain rights,” he said. “If this money goes into pockets like the [coronavirus] stimulus checks … that money is going to return back to the economy.”

Tyler Perry to Resume TV Show Production in July in Atlanta

Tyler Perry, creator and star of the “Madea” movie franchise, May 12 announced in a statement from ViacomCBS unit BET that he would resume production on the second seasons of two original TV series July 8 at his studio in Atlanta. Perry becomes one of the first Hollywood movie and TV executives to announce post-coronavirus production plans.

“BET is committed to investing in quality programming from top industry power players and giving viewers more of the content they love and expect from the brand across our platforms,” Scott Mills, president of BET, said in a separate statement.

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Perry’s series “Sistas,” about a group of single black women dealing with love and friendship, and “The Oval,” showcasing fictional life in the White House, are filmed on the actor/producer’s 330-acre converted army facility (acquired in 2015) that includes housing, greenspace and 12 sound stages.

Georgia in April became the first state to re-open select businesses, including movie theaters, despite the ongoing pandemic that has killed more than 80,000 people in the United States.

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In an interview last month with Deadline, Perry outlined how he would sequester cast and crew on his studio grounds, among other safeguards, during production to minimize any potential spread of COVID-19.

BET Hosting COVID-19 Relief Effort TV Special

With communities of color reportedly most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, BET (Black Entertainment Television), a subsidiary of ViacomCBS, is backing a number of initiatives in support.

BET, in partnership with the NAACP, United Way Worldwide, leaders in the African American creative, civil rights and business communities said it would provide financial, educational and community support directly to African Americans hardest hit by the crisis through the “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” broadcast special.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic is savagely compounding the profound health and financial vulnerabilities many Black Americans face. Every day, there are new reports of how this pandemic is killing African Americans at much higher rates than other communities,” Scott Mills, president of BET, said in a statement. “BET is using all of our resources — our capital, our media platforms, our relationships with the creative community, sponsors, businesses and charitable organizations to support our community in this time of crisis.”

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Indeed, BET, which was founded by Robert L. Johnson, has a 40-year legacy of helping afflicted communities of color, raising $12 million for Katrina victims and millions more for Haiti earthquake victims.

The “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” broadcast special, will air on April 22nd at 8 pm EDT. The special, co-hosted by Grammy Award-Winning singer/actress Kelly Rowland, TV personality Terrence J, and actress Regina Hall; will feature virtual appearances and musical performances from some of the biggest names in music and entertainment as they share tips on how to manage, cope and help during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Celebrity guest appearances and performances will include DJ Khaled, Charlie Wilson, Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin, Fantasia, Melvin Crispell III, and many more. The special will give up-to-date information and drive viewers to needed resources. In partnership with United Way, proceeds are being donated to African American communities severely impacted by COVID-19.

“Our goal for this special is to come together in a collective spirit of strength, community and hope. As we unite in harmony and compassion, through the collective healing power of music, comedy and entertainment, we can bring restoration and inspire the world that our brighter days are ahead,” said Connie Orlando, EVP of specials, music programming and music strategy at BET.

To support these initiatives, BET has established a COVID-19 relief fund in partnership with United Way Worldwide. United Way, the largest private funder of human services in the U.S., has a presence in 95% of communities across the country, and has, for more than 130 years, mobilized the caring power of the community to advance the common good.

Financial donations from the joint fund will allow United Way to disburse resources to local organizations in New York City, Atlanta, New Orleans, Detroit and Chicago, regions that have been most impacted by this crisis.

BET is also providing content on COVID-19 across multiple digital platforms, including a four-part virtual town hall series in partnership with the NAACP. On April 8, at 8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT, “Unmasked: A COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall Series Powered by NAACP & BET” will stream on NAACP.org and focus on how the pandemic is affecting African Americans and what steps the community can take to build an action plan for positive change. The first town hall will focus on the health, emotional, economic toll, congressional response and how activists can apply pressure to ensure legislation is equitable. Additionally, BET.com is reporting daily on what the African American community needs to know about COVID-19.

ViacomCBS’s BET Networks Offering All-Day Kobe Bryant Tribute

BET Networks Feb. 24, beginning 1 PM ET, will pay tribute to five-time NBA champion and Academy Award-winning producer Kobe Bryant across their linear, digital and streaming platforms.

Bryant, along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven other people died when helicopter transporting them to a youth basketball tournament crashed on Jan. 26.

“BET Remembers: Kobe Bryant” will air uninterrupted coverage of Bryant’s public memorial service held today at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, anchored by author and activist, Marc Lamont Hill, and former ESPN sports journalist Jemele Hill.

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Coverage will also stream across @BET on Twitter and Facebook as well as youtube.com/BETNetworks.

“I watched Kobe as a journalist and fan for years, before I got to know him on a personal level. He was one of the most driven athletes in the history of professional sports. He wasn’t just trying to be a better player, but a better student, a better friend, a better teammate, a better husband and a better father” Hill said.

“Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” is a documentary that looks beyond Bryant’s career, exploring the mentorships, friendships and competitors that helped shape his 18-year tenure in the NBA, and discovering his greatest personal test. It features Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird and Joe Bryant. BET airs it at 4 p.m.

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BET & Entertainment Tonight Present: “Kobe: Father, Husband, Legend” looks at Bryant’s life off the court featuring rare footage and reflections from Kobe’s friends and former teammates, including Rihanna, L.L. Cool J, Chris Paul, Shaquille O’Neal, Matt Barnes, Alex Rodriquez and many others. It will air on BET at 6 p.m. ET/PT. It will be re-released on SVOD platform BET+ on March 12.

“I am grateful that the BET family had the opportunity to give Kobe his flowers while he was still with us, and we will continue to do so, as his legacy very greatly impacted ours,” said Scott Mills, president, BET Networks. “From recognizing his tenth consecutive NBA All-Star championship on 106th & Park in 2008 to presenting him with the BET Humanitarian Award in 2002 and learning about what shapes his #MambaMentality during Genius Talks at BET Experience 2015, I’m so glad we were and continue to be able to celebrate him as the leader and legend he was to us all.”

ViacomCBS Working on a Branded SVOD Service

ViacomCBS has ad-supported service Pluto TV, preschool-based Noggin, and BET+ with Tyler Perry content, in addition to subscription streaming platforms CBS All Access and Showtime OTT. Now the media giant wants to launch a branded SVOD platform incorporating aspects of each service, in addition to Paramount Pictures movies.

Viacom, which officially completed its merger with CBS on Dec. 31, 2019, will reveal further details about the service on the company’s Feb. 20 fiscal call, according to CNBC, which first reported the story.

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The move comes as All Access and Showtime OTT have a combined 10 million paying subscribers — a relatively modest tally considering each has been existence almost five years longer than Disney+, which has more than 28 million in less than two months of existence.

The service has been at the forefront for chief digital officer Marc Debevoise, Pluto CEO Tom Ryan, and Ray Hopkins, president of U.S. Networks Distribution — all working together with Bob Bakish on the concept.

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Fox Joining Streaming Video Market Targeting African-Americans

Fox Television Stations Jan. 13 announced it is launching an ad-supported video service targeting African-Americans viewers called Fox Soul.

The service, which “aims to celebrate black culture and highlight the real topics that affect the everyday lives of the African-American community through frank and insightful dialogue with local and national influencers,” joins a niche market that includes AMC Networks’ Urban Movie Channel and ViacomCBS’ BET+.

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Programming includes originals with Fox TV shows. Series include “On the 7 with Dr. Sean,” “The Mike and Donny Show,” “The Tammi Mac Late Show,” “Out Loud with Claudia Jordan,” “Fit and Fab with Elise Neal,” and “One on One with Keyshia Cole”. Fox TV shows include “Later with Leon,” “The Q,” “Dish Nation,” “The Isiah Factor: Uncensored and Street Soldiers with Lisa Evers”.

“We are proud to debut this African-American focused channel, created by and for the members of the black community,” James DuBose, head of programming for Fox Soul, said in a statement. “We intend to inform, inspire, and empower our viewers by meeting their needs for authentic conversations on topics relevant to our lives.”

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Viacom Expands Pluto TV Access to Android Devices in Europe

Viacom has expanded access to its ad-supported streaming video service, Pluto TV, on Android devices in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Pluto TV will be available via its app on Google Play and connected televisions.

Acquired earlier this year for $340 million, Pluto TV represents Viacom’s most-ambitious attempt to expand brand awareness and exposure in the over-the-top video ecosystem worldwide.

Viacom brands include Paramount Pictures, BET, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

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With Netflix and Amazon Prime Video dominating the SVOD market, Viacom contends free ad-supported streaming video represents a competitive alternative.

Pluto TV users in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have access to more than 30 thematically-curated channels, including Pluto TV Movies, KultKrimi and recently-launched Comedy Central Pluto TV and Comedy Central — Made in Germany.

Pluto TV in the U.K. features more than 60 channels, including Pluto TV Movies, Pluto TV Indies, Pluto TV Inside and Pluto TV Crime.

Pluto TV launched earlier this month on Apple TV and iOS, and is now available on all major mobile devices and TVs.

Olivier Jollet, managing director Europe, Pluto TV, said that as today’s media consumption diversifies, premium video content isn’t limited to the TV.

“With the launch on Android tablets and mobile devices, Pluto TV is available right in our users’ pocket … on the couch, on their daily commute or at their holiday destination.”