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BET, a company created to fill the gap in Black-centered programming, hasn’t been Black-owned since 2001. Billionaires Tyler Perry and Byron Allen aim to change that.
Both media moguls are eyeing purchasing a majority stake in the company, according to a report from Variety.
Co-founded in 1979 by Black billionaire Robert Johnson and his ex-wife Sheila, the pair sold BET to Viacom in 2001 for a reported $2.9 billion in stocks, according to Forbes.
News of the potential buyout comes after the company that owns BET announced plans in January to merge its popular platforms under one banner.
Viacom changed its name to Paramount in recent years, and the company is considering a sale of the asset. The company wants to merge its Paramount+ and Showtime businesses with a stragety focused on elevating Paramount+, according to the Hollywood Reporter. With BET focused on Black-centered content, it doesn’t fit into the long-term general brand Paramount wants to become.
Now, it appears two titans of media are seeking to take over ownership of the first cable TV franchise dedicated to Black viewers.
Two Black media billionaires have eyes for BET
Tyler Perry, who rose to billionaire status on the success of his Madea plays and films, already runs several programs on BET, including “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne”, “Sisters” and “The Oval.” He currently owns a minority stake in the company, which encompasses BET, VH1 and BET+.
In fact, Perry’s relationship with BET dates back to 2005, when the company helped fund his hit debut film, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” He currently enjoys a TV deal with Paramount that began in 2020.
Meanwhile, Byron Allen is also “interested in buying BET, and he will be pursuing the acquisition of the network,” representatives for the billionaire said in a statement.
Allen owns one of the largest TV portfolios in the industry under his Entertainment Studios and Allen Media brands. On top of owning theGrio, a Black-centered digital, national news outlet, Allen also owns the Weather Channel, HBCU Go, Comedy.TV, Cars.TV and more. In 2019 he established Allen Media Broadcasting, which includes over a dozen broadcast stations around the country.
“I’m close to the same age when Rupert Murdoch came here to America,” Byron Allen told THR in 2020. “He was in his 50s. I’m 59. What you see today will be 10,000 times bigger.”
Discussions on the sale remain in the early stages, and if a deal comes to pass, Paramount would reportedly retain a minority stake in BET.