6:54pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
BET Shutters Washington, D.C., Office as Operations Move to New York (Exclusive)
BET is closing up its Washington, D.C., headquarters.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the cable network is moving its central operations to Viacom's new hub in New York, with BET CEO Debra Lee moving to Los Angeles and listing her home in Washington for a cool $11.5 million.
The move was announced this week by Lee in a pair of memos to staff. The D.C. office — which had been the central hub for BET since it opened in 1980 — will officially close July 7.
"The closing of BET Network’s Washington, D.C., office has been an ongoing transition in line with our overall strategy to make New York BET’s new headquarters," a BET spokesperson said Tuesday in a statement. "We are very proud that Washington, D.C., was the birthplace of BET Networks, the first network and the premier destination for African-American audiences for the past 37 years."
About 20 full-time salaried employees will be impacted by the move, with their future at the cabler currently unclear. Lee, in her internal memos, noted that department heads and managers will connect with staffers to discuss individual options. An estimated 40 freelancers are also said to be impacted by the move. Employees were not told whether they could transition to New York or Los Angeles or if they would be laid off outright.
The move out of Washington will also impact BET's Joyful Noise gospel music franchise, which was the second show that taped in the cable network's D.C. studios. (Joyful Noise, hosted by Tye Tribbett, was the second-lowest rated show on the network with a total viewership of 13,000.) BET previously canceled BET Honors — which was also filmed in D.C. — with the last one airing in 2016.
The news comes as Viacom has identified BET as one of its six core brands as the media conglomerate looks to rejuvenate its flagship networks under new CEO Bob Bakish.