- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
ViacomCBS is formally launching BET Studios, which will offer Black creatives an equity stake and a place to produce for outlets within and outside the media conglomerate.
Kenya Barris — who left a nine-figure Netflix deal for a stake in the venture — Rashida Jones and SWAT co-creator Aaron Rahsaan Thomas will be principal partners in BET Studios. Former Warner Bros. TV executive Aisha Summers Burke will head the studio as executive vp and general manager.
“The demand for premium content from Black creators has accelerated dramatically as a result of both the rapidly changing media and social landscapes,” said BET president Scott Mills. “BET, with our 40-year legacy of celebrating Black culture, and the full power of the ViacomCBS ecosystem, is uniquely positioned to service this demand. As a company with its origin in Black entrepreneurship, we are incredibly excited to create the first major studio to provide Black creators with ownership, creative freedom and the unparalleled partnership and support of BET. I am thrilled to have Aisha at the helm of this venture, and I look forward to our collaboration with our amazing creative partners in BET Studios.”
Barris detailed his move to ViacomCBS in a June Hollywood Reporter cover story, saying at the time, “I want to do in-your-face shit. I want to sell to everybody — and if you don’t want to work with me, I’m not saying that you’re racist, but other people might.”
BET Studios will produce series for ViacomCBS outlets including Paramount+, CBS, Showtime, Nickelodeon, BET and streaming service BET+, and look to sell to third-party platforms as well. Barris told THR he and writers he’s recruited have ideas for Hulu, Starz and Apple.
“The investment being made by Scott, David Nevins, Bob Bakish and the ViacomCBS team into BET Studios is not only an investment in Black storytelling, it is also an investment in the culture,” Barris said in a statement. “And while individual success is great, being able to amplify and champion underrepresented storytellers has been equally exciting and this venture allowsthat to continue to be a key focus in this next chapter of my career.”
Said Jones, “There is such power in the creative talent that the principal partners bring to the table and BET Studios’ unique ability to tell Black stories at scale. This joining of forces is super exciting for me in the multitude of ways that people of color see themselves represented on screen.”
Added Thomas, “As a new venture, BET Studios offers an opportunity to expand the brand’s legacy of delivering Black stories. This is a chance to bring nuanced, layered narratives to life, partnering with a forward-thinking team, interested in surprising and engaging the audience.”
Burke spent 13 years at Warner Bros., most recently serving as vp scripted television for the cable and streaming division of Warner Horizon before it merged with WBTV last year.
“BET has long been celebrated for excellence in producing quality programming that authentically depicts experiences lived within the Black community,” said Burke. “With the launch of BET Studios, we are excited to introduce a new model that opens the aperture to a broad array of platforms and supports the full range of content from Black creators. This entrepreneurial environment offers creatives the opportunity to produce diverse high-end content reflecting all aspects of entertainment.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day