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Black Entertainment Television
Logo since 2021
CountryUnited States
Broadcast areaUnited States
HeadquartersNew York City, New York[1]
Picture format1080i HDTV
(downscaled to letterboxed 480i for the SDTV feed)
OwnerParamount Global
ParentBET Media Group
(CBS Entertainment Group)
Sister channels
LaunchedJanuary 25, 1980 (1980-01-25) (USA Network timeshare)
July 1, 1983; 41 years ago (1983-07-01) (all-time channel)
FounderRobert L. Johnson
Sheila Johnson
Websitewww.bet.com Edit this at Wikidata
Streaming media
Service(s)Hulu + Live TV, fuboTV, Philo, Sling TV, YouTube TV, Vidgo

Black Entertainment Television (BET) is an American basic cable channel targeting Black American audiences. It is currently owned by the BET Media Group, a subsidiary of Paramount Global's CBS Entertainment Group. Originally launched as a program block on January 25, 1980, BET would eventually become a full-fledged channel on July 1, 1983.

As of November 2023, BET is available to approximately 67,000,000 pay television households in the United States-down from its 2011 peak of 92,000,000 households.[2]


Early years[edit]

The network's logo from 2005 to 2021.

After stepping down as a lobbyist for the cable industry, Freeport, Illinois native Robert L. Johnson decided to launch his own cable television network. Johnson acquired a loan for $15,000 (equivalent to $55,648 in 2023) and a $500,000 (equivalent to $1,854,921 in 2023) investment from media executive John Malone to start the network.[3] The network, which was named Black Entertainment Television (BET), launched on January 25, 1980.[4] Cheryl D. Miller designed the logo that would represent the network, which featured a star to symbolize "Black Star Power".[5][6]

Initially, broadcasting for two hours a week as a block of programming on the Madison Square Garden Sports Network (which would change their name to USA Network three months after BET launched),[7] the network's lineup was composed of music videos and reruns of popular black sitcoms.[3]

In 1983, BET became a full-fledged entity, independent of any other channel or programming block, though continuing to share channel space with other cable networks on local cable systems due to lack of channel room for their 24-hour schedule until the time of digital cable allowed for larger channel capacity.[citation needed] In some markets, the network would not arrive at all until as late as the early 2010s and Viacom considered it compulsory in retransmission consent negotiations to carry the BET-branded networks with Viacom Media Networks, due to some providers claiming that there was an overall lack of demand for the channel, or there was a low to non-existent black American population within their service area.[citation needed]

BET launched a news program, BET News, in 1986, with Paul Berry as its first anchor. Berry was also a local anchor at WJLA-TV in Washington, DC at that time. Ed Gordon became anchor in 1988. Gordon later hosted other programs and specials on BET, such as For Black Men Only: The Aftermath, related to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and a recurring interview show, Conversations with Ed Gordon.[8] In 1996, the talk show BET Tonight started with Tavis Smiley as host; in 2001, Ed Gordon replaced Smiley as host of the program.

In 1991, the network became the first black-controlled television company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.[3] Starting the late 1990s, the network expanded with the launch of digital cable networks: what is now the general interest channel BET Her was initially launched as "BET on Jazz" (later known as "BET Jazz", "BET J", and "Centric"), created initially to showcase jazz music-related programming, especially that of black American jazz musicians. In 1997, BET entered into a joint venture with Starz (then-owned by John Malone's Liberty Media, but later acquired by Lionsgate years later) to launch a multiplex service of the premium channel featuring black American-oriented films called "BET Movies: Starz! 3" (later renamed "Black Starz" after BET dropped out of the venture following its purchase by Viacom, then-owner of Starz rival Showtime, and now known as "Starz InBlack").

Sale to Viacom[edit]

In 2001, the network was bought by media conglomerate Viacom (later to become part of Paramount Global) for $3 billion. In 2005, Johnson retired from the network, turning over his titles of president and chief executive officer to former BET vice president Debra L. Lee.

In 2002, the network had launched two more music-oriented networks: BET Hip-Hop and BET Gospel. BET also launched a series of original programming by this time, including reality shows Baldwin Hills and Hell Date, competition show Sunday Best, and town hall-style discussion show Hip Hop vs. America.[9] BET's president of entertainment Reginald Hudlin resigned from the network on September 11, 2008. He was then replaced by Stephen Hill, who is also executive vice president of music programming and talent.[10] BET announced in March 2010 that Ed Gordon would return to the network to host "a variety of news programs and specials".[11]

In March 2017, president of programming Stephen Hill and executive vice president of original programming Zola Mashariki both stepped down. Connie Orlando, senior vice president of Specials, Music Programming, and News was named the interim president of programming.[12]

In July 2017, Viacom signed new film and television development deals with Tyler Perry following the expiration of his existing pact with Discovery Inc. in 2019. As part of this deal, Perry would produce The Oval and Sistas for BET and co-own the network's newly launched streaming service, BET+.[13]



A wide range of people have protested elements of BET's programming and actions, including Public Enemy rapper Chuck D,[14] journalist George Curry,[15] writer Keith Boykin,[16] comic book creator Christopher Priest,[17] filmmaker Spike Lee,[18] Syracuse University professor of finance Dr. Boyce Watkins,[19] former NFL player Burgess Owens,[20] and cartoonist Aaron McGruder (who, in addition to numerous critical references throughout his series The Boondocks, made two particular episodes, "The Hunger Strike" and "The Uncle Ruckus Reality Show", criticizing the channel). As a result, BET heavily censors suggestive content from the videos that it airs, often with entire verses and scenes removed from certain rap videos.[21][22]

Many scholars within the black American community maintain that BET perpetuates and justifies racism by affecting the stereotypes held about black Americans, and also by affecting the psyche of its young viewers through its bombardment of negative images of black Americans.[23]

Following the death of civil rights leader Coretta Scott King in 2006, BET broadcast its regularly scheduled music video programming, rather than covering King's funeral live, as was done by TV One and Black Family Channel, and by cable news channels such as CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. The network's website streamed the funeral live, while it periodically broadcast taped, 60-second reports from the funeral by senior news correspondent Andre Showell. Michael Lewellen, BET's senior vice president for corporate communications, defended the decision: "We weighed a number of different options. In the end, we chose to offer a different kind of experience for BET viewers." Lewellen also explained that BET received around "two dozen" phone calls and "a handful" of emails criticizing BET for not showing the King funeral live.[24] On the evening of the funeral, February 7, 2006, BET broadcast the tribute special Coretta Scott King: Married to the Mission, and repeated it the following Sunday, February 12.[25] Showell hosted the program featuring highlights of the funeral, Coretta Scott King: Celebrating Her Spirit, that broadcast that same day.[26] In its 2007 convention, the National Association of Black Journalists gave BET its "Thumbs Down Award" for not broadcasting King's funeral live.[27]

The New York Times reported that the Reverend Delman L. Coates and his organization Enough is Enough led protests every weekend outside the residences of BET executives against what they claim are negative stereotypes of black people perpetuated by BET music videos.[21] Enough is Enough backed an April 2008 report titled The Rap on Rap by the Parents Television Council that criticized BET's rap programming, suggesting that the gratuitous sexual, violent and profane content was targeting children and teens.[28]

In a 2010 interview, BET co-founder Sheila Johnson explained that she herself is "ashamed" of what the network has become. "I don't watch it. I suggest to my kids that they don't watch it," she said. "When we started BET, it was going to be the Ebony magazine on television. We had public affairs programming. We had news... I had a show called Teen Summit, we had a large variety of programming, but the problem is that then the video revolution started up... And then something started happening, and I didn't like it at all. And I remember during those days we would sit up and watch these videos and decide which ones were going on and which ones were not. We got a lot of backlash from recording artists...and we had to start showing them. I didn't like the way women were being portrayed in these videos."[29]

Sister networks[edit]

Spin-off channels[edit]

BET has launched several spin-off cable networks over the years, including BET Her (formerly known as "BET on Jazz", then "BET J" and later "Centric"), BET Hip-Hop, and BET Gospel. Overtime, spin-offs from sibling channels would be realigned under the BET branding; such as BET Jams (formerly known as "MTV Jams"), BET Soul (formerly known as "VH1 Soul"), SHO×BET, a premium Showtime multiplex network, and VH1 (an older-skewing spin-off of MTV that drifted into reality shows and, later, Black American-centric programming).

In May 2019, a BET-branded channel was launched on Pluto TV (which was acquired by its parent company two months earlier).[30] In June 2019, the launch of BET+ was announced, a premium streaming service targeting Black Americans. The service launched in the United States in Fall 2019 with First Wives Club (which was originally planned to launch on Paramount Network before being shifted to BET) announced as one of the service's original series.[31]

BET Gospel[edit]

BET Gospel
United States
LaunchedJuly 1, 2002; 22 years ago (2002-07-01)

BET Gospel is a television network in the United States that launched on July 1, 2002. The network provides gospel and religious-related programming, with a mix new and classic shows.[citation needed]

BET Gospel previously ran on an automated loop schedule.[citation needed] In 2016, the channel was updated with its programming now composing of music videos, series and specials.[citation needed]

Current programming[edit]
  • Lifted (2016–present) (music videos)
  • Being (2016–present)
  • Bobby Jones Gospel (2002–present)
  • Lift Every Voice (2002–present)
  • Celebration of Gospel
  • It's a Mann's World (2016–present)
  • Let the Church Say Amen (2016–present)
  • The Sheards (2016–present)
  • T.D. Jakes Presents: Mind, Body, & Soul (2016–present)
  • Sunday Best (2016–present)

BET Jams[edit]

BET Jams
Broadcast areaUnited States and Latin America
Picture format480i SDTV
LaunchedMay 1, 2002; 22 years ago (2002-05-01)
Former namesMTV Jams (2002–2015)

BET Jams is an American pay television network airing hip-hop and urban contemporary music videos on a thrice-daily automated wheel schedule of eight hours outside of temporary "roadblock" closures during Paramount Global's awards events, with all of its programming currently denoted in hour blocks as BET Jams – Music Videos within electronic program guide listings.

The channel launched on May 1, 2002, as MTV Jams, and carried that name until October 5, 2015, and was placed under BET's purview as MTV drifted away from music programming along with 106 & Park. The network space itself launched on August 1, 1998, as MTVX, carrying modern rock videos, and was re-focused around hip-hop music on that date, to some controversy from MTVX's former viewers.

International networks[edit]

BET International[edit]

BET UK first transmitted on Videotron (now known as Virgin Media) and several other subscription providers from 1993 until 1996.[32]

In May 2007 by Ofcom, BET International Inc. was given a license to rebroadcast in the United Kingdom. BET International is the first international version of the channel and is available in Europe, Africa and the Middle East through satellite providers. BET launched on February 27, 2008, on Sky channel 191 and began to be carried by Freesat channel 140 on August 8, 2008. BET+1 is also available on Sky channel 198 and Freesat channel 141, and is free-to-air. BET International shows with a mix of content from the main BET channel and locally produced shows. An exclusive, but temporary, HD version of the channel was made to show the 2009 BET Awards on Freesat EPG 142.

BET is additionally an associate member of the Caribbean Cable Cooperative.[33]

BET launched an app called BET Play allowing international access to BET content in over 100 countries in June 2016.[34]

The channel was shut down on April 8, 2021, with its content moved to My5 and Pluto TV.


BET became available through most Canadian pay television providers on October 17, 1997.[citation needed] Several acquired shows on the Canadian feed are blacked out due to domestic broadcast groups owning the rights to them.[citation needed] Shaw and Rogers discontinued carriage of the network in the Fall of 2022 due to broader issues involving carriage of Paramount's networks.[35]


Introduced on November 17, 2015. BET France launched across a linear television channel alongside non-linear services including Bouygues Telecom, Canalsat, Numericable/SFR, and Free.[36]


MTV East, MTV West, MTV Live, BET and BET Her also officially aired on Singapore, Johor Bahru/Johor Bahru District and Batam/Batam Islands via Channel 5 and 8 from 1 September 2022 (after farewell from MTV Southeast Asia as very final and last time the end (as of 31 August 2022) and expect Vietnam until 31 December 2022) until now.

MTV East, MTV West, MTV Live, BET and BET Her also officially aired on Indonesia via national commercial free-to-air terrestrial NET. from 10 April 2024 until now.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hipes, Patrick (May 10, 2017). "BET Networks Shutting Down DC Headquarters, Moving To NYC". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  2. ^ "U.S. cable network households (universe), 1990 – 2023". wrestlenomics.com. May 14, 2024. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Johnson, Robert; Dumaine, Brian (October 1, 2002). "The Market Nobody Wanted". Fortune Small Business. Retrieved September 8, 2008.
  4. ^ "Corporate Fact Sheet". BET Networks. Archived from the original on September 12, 2008. Retrieved September 12, 2008.
  5. ^ Schneider, Michael (June 28, 2021). "BET Launches New Logo, Branding Effort in Time for BET Awards". Variety. Archived from the original on June 28, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  6. ^ "Cheryl D. Miller's Design Journey". AIGA | the professional association for design. November 16, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  7. ^ Pulley, Brett (October 5, 2005). The Billion Dollar BET: Robert Johnson and the Inside Story of Black Entertainment Television. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780471735977.
  8. ^ Johnson, Anne Janette (1996). "Gordon, Ed 1960 –". Contemporary Black Biography. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  9. ^ Deggans, Eric (July 24, 2007). "BET diversifies with confidence". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  10. ^ Wiltz, Teresa; Farhi, Paul (September 12, 2008). "BET President Resigns". The Washington Post. p. C7. Retrieved September 12, 2008.
  11. ^ Bland, Bridget (March 8, 2010). "Ed Gordon: Returning to BET News". Black Voices. AOL. Archived from the original on December 17, 2010. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  12. ^ Hipes, Patrick (March 29, 2017). "BET Programming Shakeup: President Stephen Hill & EVP Zola Mashariki Exit". Deadline. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  13. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (July 14, 2017). "Tyler Perry Inks Mega Film & Television Deal With Viacom". Deadline. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  14. ^ "BET 2001; THE FISHTANK OF FOOLS". publicenemy.com. March 30, 2001. Archived from the original on February 17, 2008. Retrieved February 5, 2008.
  15. ^ "Viacom's BET Turns into ET". georgecurry.com. December 10, 2002. Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. Retrieved February 5, 2008.
  16. ^ Boykin, Keith (December 18, 2002). "All Hail Bob Johnson". Archived from the original on May 6, 2006. Retrieved February 5, 2008.
  17. ^ Priest, Christopher J. (February 2001). "the ostracized negro". Archived from the original on March 20, 2003. Retrieved February 5, 2008.
  18. ^ "Zap2it – TV news – Spike Lee Dismisses BET". Tv.zap2it.com. January 30, 2003. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  19. ^ Watkins, Boyce (June 28, 2010). "Why there should be a black backlash against BET". theGrio.
  20. ^ "Superbowl champ Burgess Owens to Kaepernick: Turn off BET and educate your ignorant self". Conservative News Today. August 29, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  21. ^ a b Lee, Felicia R. (November 5, 2007). "Protesting Demeaning Images in Media". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Eggerton, John (April 9, 2008). "PTC, Enough Is Enough Campaign Take on MTV, BET". Broadcasting & Cable.
  23. ^ Adams, Jonathan (June 11, 2008). "BET vs. Boondocks". Colorlines. Archived from the original on March 3, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  24. ^ Shister, Gail (February 9, 2006). "BET leaves pack on King funeral – it sticks with scheduled program". The Buffalo News. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  25. ^ "BET, BET.com Present Special Telecast, On-Line Coverage Honoring Life of Coretta Scott King" (Press release). BET. February 6, 2006. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011.
  26. ^ "BET Celebration of Coretta Scott King Continues Sunday With Three Hours of Tributes, Special Moments" (Press release). February 9, 2006. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011.
  27. ^ Williams, Juan (August 10, 2007). "'BET' Gets Thumbs Down Award From Journalists". Morning Edition. National Public Radio. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  28. ^ Moss, Linda; Umstead, R. Thomas (April 11, 2008). "PTC Puts A Bad 'Rap' On BET, MTV". Multichannel News. Retrieved July 27, 2008.
  29. ^ Rivas, Jorge (October 15, 2012). "BET Co-Founder Says Network Reinforces Negative Stereotypes". Colorlines. Retrieved July 2, 2022.
  30. ^ Peterson, Tim (April 16, 2019). "Viacom will debut 15 channels on Pluto TV to bolster its upfront pitch". Retrieved April 29, 2019.
  31. ^ Goldberg, Lesley. "Tyler Perry Sets First of Four BET Series: White House Soap 'The Oval' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  32. ^ "Black Entertainment Television (Bet) Uk Launch – What Happened??? « Www.Madnews.Biz". Madnews.wordpress.com. December 30, 2007. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  33. ^ "Member channels of the Caribbean Cable Cooperative". Cctvcoop.com. Archived from the original on August 16, 2011. Retrieved August 5, 2011.
  34. ^ Perez, Sarah (June 22, 2016). "BET Play is Viacom's new $4 per month streaming service, arriving today outside the U.S." TechCrunch.com. Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  35. ^ "Removal of Paramount Network and BET". Shaw customer forums. July 6, 2022. Retrieved March 27, 2024.
  36. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (October 15, 2015). "Viacom Intl. Media Networks, BET Intl. Launch Channel in France". Variety.com. Variety. Retrieved February 22, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]