BET for grown folks

Viacom, which owns BET, is launching a new cable channel in October called Centric. This new cable channel’s target audience is grown black folks; you know those in the 25-54 age range, who really aren’t interested in BET. I’m one of those folks who can’t stand BET.

BET to cater to middle-aged blacks with Centric cable channel
The TV group is jumping in later this year to compete for viewers with TBS and TV One.

By Joe Flint

April 24, 2009

Call it the Obama Effect. Or the Tyler Factor.

Is the hottest niche audience middle-aged African Americans? Viacom Inc. is betting yes as its Black Entertainment Television Group is launching Centric, a cable channel aimed at that demographic.

In making the announcement, BET Chief Executive Debra Lee said that in light of the “historic change our country has experienced, this is the perfect time for BET Networks to reexamine where we are as a company and what we can be for our audience.”

Of course, another factor might be TV One, the network already targeting that audience that is majority owned by cable giant Comcast Corp. and Radio One and reaches almost 50 million homes. Time Warner Inc.’s TBS has also grabbed a big chunk of that audience with its Tyler Perry shows “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns.”

I do watch TV One but I don’t watch TBS’s House of Payne and Meet the Browns.

TV One, not surprisingly, said Centric was validation of its strategy.

“We’ve always said that the African American viewing community is so large and diverse that there is probably room for three or four cable channels in the space. I guess they were just waiting for us to prove the case,” said TV One Chief Executive Johnathan Rodgers.

BET said it expected to launch Centric in the fourth quarter of this year in about 45 million homes. That is an ambitious number, and to get there BET is likely to close its jazz channel, BET J, although the company declined to confirm that that was the plan.

For BET, the move is the latest in an effort to rebrand itself as a more serious programmer. For years, the cable network took heat for its steady diet of racy rap videos and a dearth of public affairs programming.

BET unveiled a handful of shows in development for Centric that, at first glance, don’t seem aimed at the middle-aged demographic the network is going after. One show, “Keeping Up With the Joneses,” will track high society in Houston, and another, “Model City,” is about young male models trying to make it in New York.

Looks like Centric will be using the same formula as everyone else. Showing nothing but reality shows. A show about keeping up with high society and male models trying to make it in New York City? There are already enough modeling shows on tv including my guilty pleasure America’s Next Top Model.  Will they offer any original programming or scripted shows?  I’ll give it a look see if they offer this new channel on Verizon FIOS but if turns out to be nothing but reality central black folks style then I’ll have to pass on Centric.

One response

  1. BET For Grown Folks…

    Lady Rayne, a black moderate blogger, discusses how Black Entertainment Television seeks to cater to affluent, middle-aged blacks with a new cable channel: “Viacom, which owns BET, is launching a new cable channel in October called Centric. This new ….

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