BET looks for that 'Connection'
Backs up theme at upfronts with new, varied slateBET Networks on Thursday unveiled a slew of new programming, including an animated series from Marvel Comics, a dating show narrated by MC Lyte and a gospel-themed spinoff of "106 & Park."
They join several other new and returning series on BET's and BET J's slates, which were outlined during the Viacom-owned company's upfront presentation to advertisers — themed "Connection You Can Feel!" — at Manhattan Center Studios in New York.
BET Networks chairman and CEO Debra Lee and president and COO Scott Mills said the company is continuing to invest in original programming as well as digital initiatives.
"We are further strengthening our commitment to providing quality content wherever our audience wants it," Lee said.
The new shows are:
"Black Panther," a primetime animated series created in partnership with Marvel, which centers on the first black superhero, a wise and just African warrior king who also happens to be technologically advanced.
"Brutha," a docudrama that follows the lives of five brothers in a singing group who are working with producer Jermaine Dupri.
"The Boot," a dating show strip narrated by MC Lyte that whittles down a group of single men and women until one of each remains.
"106 & Gospel," a 90-minute weekly music program that will feature performances and a top 20 countdown of contemporary gospel videos.
Also new to the schedule will be two news-based programs: the talk show "The Truth With Jeff Johnson" and the investigative series "Unreported." In addition, stand-up show "Comic View" is getting a makeover, returning later this year as "All-New Comic View," and BET has added Sony Pictures Television's upcoming daytime court strip "Judge Karen" to its schedule.
BET also has renewed the unscripted series "American Gangster," "Baldwin Hills," "College Hill," "Interns," "Sunday Best" and "Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is," which stands as the network's highest-rated original series ever. "College" and "Keyshia" also were the most-watched cable reality shows among black households last year.
"We've had fantastic original programming success stories during primetime, and the next step in our strategy is to create even more hits throughout the other parts of the day," BET president of entertainment Reginald Hudlin said.
Upcoming specials include the BET Awards, the BET Honors, the BET Hip Hop Awards, "Spring Bling" and music-centric "Celebration of Gospel."
On BET J, new programming includes "Carmelo's Way," centering on the life of Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony on and off the court; "Leading Men," profiling prominent black men; and "Urban Cuisine," a cooking-themed show starring chef Marcus Samuelsson.
BET Networks also touted its digital initiatives, saying that the BET Vertical Ad Network, which allows advertisers to reach beyond BET to other targeted Web sites for urban and black consumers, has reached 10 million unique users on more than 250 sites since January.
The company also announced a multiplatform election initiative dubbed "YOU(th) Vote!" focused on raising voter awareness and participation among black youth.