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ViacomCBS’ BET is going digital-only in the U.K. on April 8 and launching its first original content slate in the market.
The BET linear channel will no longer air in the U.K. as of that day, with the company’s
My5, the popular free on-demand streaming platform of Channel 5, becoming “the official home of BET U.K. as it transitions to a digital-first brand.” The network brand will also launch a dedicated channel on ViacomCBS’ advertising-supported VOD service Pluto TV in Britain on April 5, following recent launches in Brazil and France.
In addition to featuring BET U.S. content, such as Tyler Perry’s The Oval and Sistas, BET U.K. will also debut local originals, namely Celebrity Comfort Food, a social-first series with the working title Black to the Future, and We Do That. The brand will also launch BET Amplifind U.K., the local version of the BET Amplified initiative that showcases up-and-coming musical talent.
“We are committed to growing the BET brand in the U.K. and to continuing to elevate Black love, joy, power and pride worldwide,” said Monde Twala, senior vp of BET International. “BET is an authentic destination for Black culture globally, and we are certain this move will strengthen the brand presence in the U.K. as we super-serve lovers of Black culture with rich and diverse content across our streaming services.”
He added: “By investing in local content and focusing our U.K. future on streaming, we can connect with a larger base of fans in a deeper, authentic and more meaningful way.”
BET has been available on My5 since 2018 and last year tripled its streams on the platform. “The brand has also had five consecutive quarters of year-over-year growth on My5,” the company said.
As part of the original programming push, Celebrity Comfort Food will follow a food-obsessed host who meets up with a celebrity to cook their favorite home comfort cuisine. “The meal will be dished up at a family gathering where the pair will be judged on how well they did, particularly when judged against the family’s own secret recipe,” according to the plot description.
Black to the Future will see the the host, with the help of “a few famous faces,” put together a time capsule for the future Black diaspora. The show will air on My5 in three 22-minute episodes after debuting on BET U.K.’s social platforms.
And We Do That will follow “three well-known hosts as they meet incredibly talented Black individuals and try out their various career paths through hilarious challenges.”
Twala told THR that the international rollout of BET, which is now available in 75 countries, has been going well and takes into account how fans look to connect with the brand and its content in different parts of the world. “Every market is different, but streaming is a key pillar in making sure that the BET brand resonates and is successful,” he explained. “It’s about being where the audience is. What we want to make sure we do is become a significant destination for talent and serve audiences that follow Black culture and entertainment.”
Filling demand for local content depending on specific countries’ needs is also key, which is why BET U.K. is also launching originals now, Twala said. “We’ve seen this everywhere. In Africa, there’s great demand for local content, in France there is great demand, and in Brazil as well, but it will roll out in different ways from one region to the next,” he said. “From a ViacomCBS perspective, content is king.”
Twala has in the past spoken about the importance of “brand resonance.” Asked about that, he said: “Central to the BET brand DNA is promoting diversity and inclusion, whether it’s Black Girls Rock! or the Soul Train Awards. We have different campaigns and themes that really connect African Americans with French-speaking Africans and the whole diaspora to celebrate and elevate and promote that diversity. A big part of what we do is making sure that the brand continues to resonate and serves lovers of Black culture.”
The executive also said BET is now a “universal brand,” explaining: “It is about elevating Black culture, entertainment, celebrating Black excellence globally, and I think that’s something people really love about the brand.”
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