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How 'The Game' Quadrupled Its Audience With Move to BET

BET Networks CEO Debra Lee credits the strong brand, the fit with the channel’s target audience and smart marketing, including an unusual deal with an existing Facebook fan page.

NEW YORK – How did The Game manage to quadruple its audience by moving from the CW to BET to give the network its highest-rated series ever?

Debra Lee, CEO and chairwoman of Viacom’s BET Networks, in an interview with the New York Times credited the network’s target audience that fits with the show, a smart marketing plan that included teasers that started as early as last June, devoted Facebook and Twitter fans and regular repeats of old episodes over the past year.

“It proves that cable is competitive,” Lee said and lauded the strength of the brand. “Folks know what to expect from BET all day long.”

The Game is a sitcom about pro football players and their relationships with women. When the CW canceled it, the show attracted only 1.9 million viewers an episode. However, the first two episodes on BET averaged 7.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched sitcom ever on cable television, according to the Times.

Among BET’s marketing for the show, they struck an unusual arrangement with an existing Facebook fan site. In mid-2008, fan Stacey Mattocks created a Facebook page for the show that continued to gain fans, the Times reported. When BET ordered new episodes of the show last May, it embraced her page -- with 3 million fans -- instead of building one from scratch. The network now pays her to run the fan page part time.