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.”

Viacom’s $9.99 BET+ Streaming Service Launches

Viacom Sept. 19 launched just its third branded domestic subscription streaming video service BET+, priced at $9.99 per month.

The SVOD service complements BET’s linear network, which launched in 1980 by Robert L. Johnson. Additional access points include BET.com and the BET Now app for TV Everywhere users.

In addition, BET’s recently launched channel on Pluto TV will continue to feature classic films and box office hits from the best of black Hollywood.

The service follows previous launches of preschool-based Noggin and Comedy Central Now. Viacom also owns and operates ad-supported Pluto TV.

Ironically, BET+ will compete directly against AMC Networks’ Urban Movie Channel (UMC), the SVOD created in 2018 for African American and urban audiences — by Robert L. Johnson’s RLJ Entertainment.

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BET+ is also available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, Android devices, Android TV devices, Amazon Fire TV and Prime Video Channels.

Users can also subscribe directly through Apple TV channels and watch in the Apple TV app, on demand and ad-free, across their devices for online and offline viewing.

The joint venture by BET Networks and Tyler Perry Studios launches with more than 1,000 hours of ad-free premium content, including exclusive new original programming and a broad array of top African-American-focused dramas, sitcoms, films, and specials from BET and sister networks within the Viacom portfolio.

Additionally, BET+ will offer an exclusive collection of Tyler Perry films, television, and stage plays. The service will also provide a host of content from leading African American creators, including Tracy Oliver, Will Packer, along with fresh new voices, on both sides of the camera. New titles will be added to the service regularly.

Initial content includes all nine episodes of BET+ original series, “First Wives Club,from Girls Trip screenwriter Tracy Oliver, and starring Ryan Michelle Bathe, Michelle Buteau and Jill Scott.

New weekly original series,Bigger— a 10-episode comedic series from hitmaker Will Packer (“Ride Along” and “Think Like a Man.”) — gives fans a taste of what’s to come by making the first three episodes of the series available now.

The remaining episodes of will be released every week beginning Sept. 26. In addition to its new original content, BET+ is also now streaming the comedy series, Martin”.

In the coming months, BET+ will stream Tyler Perry’s theatrical films, including the Madeafranchise; new original series; and a selection of Perry’s stage plays —Meet the Browns,” “Daddy’s Little Girls,” “Family That Preys,” and “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” among others.

BET+ will stream a lineup of African American TV, movie and musical content including BET’s library series, films, documentaries, and specials such as “The Bobby Brown Story,” “The New Edition Story,” “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” “The Quad,” “Being Mary Jane,” “Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration, ” “College Hill,” “Comic View,” “Hell Date,” “Keyshia Cole: All In,” “Nellyville” “Reed Between The Lines,” “Ali: People’s Champ,” “Katrina: 10 Years Later,” “Killer Curves,” “BET Awards,” “Hip Hop Awards,” “Soul Train Awards,” “Black Girls Rock,” “Boomerang,” “Harlem Nights,” “Coach Carter,” “Losing Isaiah,” and “Tina Turner Live In Holland,” among others.

Viacom library TV shows include VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta,” “Basketball Wives,” “T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle,” Comedy Central’s “Why? With Hannibal Buress”, MTV’s “Todrick,” TV Land’s “Soul Man,” Nick @ Night’s “Instant Mom,” and more.

In the coming weeks, BET+ will feature stand-up comedy specials from D.L. Hughley, Eddie Griffin, Nick Cannon, Sasheer Zamata (Saturday Night Live), Lil Rel (Get Out), Gina Yashere (The Daily Show), and Sinbad.

 

Devin Griffin Named GM of BET+ Streaming Service

BET Networks July announced that Devin Griffin has been named general manager of BET+, the subscription video-on-demand service focused on the African American market.

Griffin will manage the BET+ P&L and oversee business strategy and operations, including original programming, content acquisitions, marketing, distribution, planning and analysis.

He reports to Scott Mills, president of BET Networks, from Los Angeles.

Devin Griffin

“Devin’s fresh perspective and expertise in curating premium content will strengthen our position in the streaming landscape and drive subscriber growth, viewership and retention,” Mills said in a statement.

Devin most-recently was a producer and EVP of Story Lab U.S., where he co-founded and led the company’s foray into premium long-form content development. In less than a year, he developed original series with Anonymous Content, ITV, Stephen David Entertainment, and the NBA Players Association.

Previously, Devin served in various content management roles at Netflix. He formed and led the company’s unscripted group, commissioning and/or executive producing over 40 series, including: the Emmy Award-winning “Queer Eye,” “The Confession Tapes,” “Michael Jordan: The Last Dance,” the Peabody-winning “Hip-Hop Evolution,” “Shot in the Dark,” and “The Toys That Made Us.”

During his tenure at Netflix, Devin also worked on scripted drama, comedy, sci-fi, and anime. He brought a distinctive curatorial lens to the service, programming shows such as the Emmy Award-winning “Black Mirror,” “Designated Survivor,” “Chewing Gum,” “Z Nation,” “Wentworth,” “Van Helsing,” “Danger 5,” “Seven Deadly Sins” and original stand-up specials from Tom Segura, Chelsea Peretti, and Wyatt Cenac, among others.

Devin holds a B.A. from Stanford and an MBA from Wharton.

Viacom’s Pluto TV Inks Deal with U.K.’s Channel 5

When Viacom acquired ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV for $340 million earlier this year, the corporate parent to Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, BET, MTV and Nickelodeon, had scant over-the-top video distribution.

Now, thanks to aggressive dealmaking, Pluto TV is expanding Viacom’s digital content reach globally.

The Los Angeles-based platform signed a distribution deal with Channel 5, the TV broadcaster in the United Kingdom owned by Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN).

Specifically, three branded channels — Pluto TV Drama, Pluto TV Food and Pluto TV Movies – are headed to Channel 5’s “My5” OTT platform — the latter distributed through Apple TV, YouView, Freeview and related devices.

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“Collaborating with a well-established VOD platform like My5 allows us to pursue our ongoing goal to further enhance Pluto TV’s visibility in the U.K.,”  Olivier Jollet, Pluto’s managing director in Europe, said in a statement. “The three curated Pluto TV channels not only add to My5’s existing line-up, but also enable the My5 audience to experience a small portion of Pluto TV’s diverse programming.”

Pluto has expanded distribution (and Viacom content) through recent deals involving Comcast Cable’s X1 platform, Cox Contour, CNN, Cinedigm and BBC Studios.

“This is a global opportunity,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said earlier this year. “It’s going to accelerate our strategy on multiple dimensions. We see a very material opportunity there.”

Indeed, Oli Thomas, VP of digital at VIMN in the U.K., Northern and Eastern Europe, said the MY5 arrangement elevates the U.K. broadcaster’s streamer’s diversity in OTT content.

“The Pluto TV channels further enhance our proposition in the U.K.,” he said. “We know that movies and drama in particular work well in the on-demand space and we’re thrilled to debut such an exciting range of library content on My5.”

Viacom, Tyler Perry Partner for BET Streaming Video Service

BET Networks, a unit of Viacom Media Networks, and Tyler Perry Studios June 24 unveiled a new joint venture to launch BET+, a pending subscription video-on-demand service targeting the African-American audience.

Available this fall, BET+ will feature more than 1,000 hours of content, including original programming and catalog series, movies, and specials from BET Networks, Perry, and other African-American content creators.

Tyler Perry

“African-Americans are the leading consumers of streaming services, with higher SVOD adoption rates than other consumers, which is why we’re so excited to launch a premium product for this underserved audience,” Scott Mills, president of BET Networks, said in a statement.

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BET+ will offer consumers a comprehensive collection of African-American-focused dramas, sitcoms, films and specials. It will be the official home of Tyler Perry’s collected works across film, television and the stage.

The service will feature Perry’s box office-topping theatrical films, including films from the “Madea” series; original series “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns” and a selection of Perry’s stage plays.

“In our industry, the way people consume content is constantly evolving,” Perry said. “I’ve paid attention to my audience and what works for them and, for that reason, I’m very excited not only about the idea of partnering with BET to create new and exciting content, but also about the idea of giving people a personalized experience through the ability to curate the content they love to consume.”

The first BET+ original — “First Wives Club,” a 10 episode scripted drama from Girls Trip screenwriter Tracy Oliver — will debut on the service in the fall.

The modern television remake of the classic 1996 revenge comedy starring Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton now stars an African American cast, including Jill Scott(“Why Did I Get Married”), Ryan Michelle Bathe (“This is Us,” “Empire”) and Michelle Buteau (“Isn’t It Romantic”).

“First Wives Club” kicks off BET+’s slate of exclusive original programming that includes the premiere of a new series from Will Packer (“Ride Along,” “Think Like a Man”) and new original series from Tyler Perry and more.

The service will also feature a deep library of beloved series, films, and documentaries from BET Networks and the Viacom portfolio — including “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” “The New Edition Story,” “The Quad,” “College Hill,” “Comic View,” “Hell Date,” and more — most of which have not previously been available on streaming platforms.

BET+ will be available at launch on Android devices such as Samsung Galaxy, iOS devices such as the Apple iPad and iPhone, as well as other streaming devices.

BET’s new and current-window programming will continue to be available on BET’s linear network, including the newly-announced Tyler Perry original drama, “The Oval,” which will debut on BET as the first series under Perry’s multi-year content partnership with the network.

With over 75 hours of new original content slated to premiere on BET over the next year, Perry’s line-up will also include another drama series, two comedy series, and a live holiday-themed production. BET fans will have additional access points to BET content on BET.com and the BET Now app for TV Everywhere users.