BET, Endemol prepare 'Cake' for late-night

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BET is expanding its original programming efforts into late-night with some help from Endemol USA.

The companies are collaborating for the first time on a live weeknight strip that blends game show and talk show elements with an interactive twist allowing viewers to double as contestants. "Take the Cake" will air at 11 p.m. Monday-Friday beginning July 9 for the next few months.

"Cake" enables viewers to play along via the Internet or text messaging. The series is an example of what is known globally in the TV industry as "participation TV," a format Endemol has been employing in dozens of countries since the 1990s but which is only starting to build steam in the U.S.

"It's a different way of approaching late-night," BET president of entertainment Reginald Hudlin said. "The bulk of our development efforts have been devoted to primetime, but now it's time to look at other dayparts."

Endemol collaborated for a similar late-night series with TBS last year. "Midnight Money Madness" received an eight-week trial that began in August; TBS declined to pick it up for additional episodes (HR 8/2).

Endemol vp digital media Jon Vlassopulos believes that "Cake" will benefit from what the company learned from "Madness," its first experience producing an interactive program in the U.S.

"We're trying to take the format to the next level," said Vlassopulos, who characterized "Cake" as having more of a pop culture focus than "Madness."

Other networks that have been active in the space include GSN, which this month introduced a "game texting" component to its primetime casino block.

"Cake" will be part of a blitz of new original programming BET is rolling out in July, including the series "Hell Date" and "Baldwin Hills," previously announced at its upfront presentation in May.

"Cake" will be shown tape-delayed in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. Hosts are BET personalities Toccara ("The Black Carpet") and Joe Clair ("Comic View").

"Cake" will replace a mix of syndicated programming in BET late-night, including "In Living Color" and "Jamie Foxx." Another BET late-night original, the sports talk show "Ballers," could return in the fall.
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