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Paramount is considering a potential sale of a majority stake in its BET business, which includes BET, VH1 and the BET+ streaming service, a source familiar with the matter said. The Hollywood Reporter.
A second source tells THR that Tyler Perry, a longtime BET partner, is engaged in conversations to buy the stake. Perry’s deal with Paramount, which began in 2017, is said to be imminent, and the purchase of BET, if it happens, would give him ownership of the brand that airs many of his shows.
The sources both warned that talks around the sale were still in their early stages and there was no guarantee a deal would take place. Other parties have also reportedly expressed interest in BET’s activities.
Another potential suitor is Byron Allen, who controls a number of local television stations as well as The Weather Channel and other assets through his company Entertainment Studios. “Byron Allen is interested in buying BET, and he will pursue the acquisition of the network,” a representative for the mogul said.
The sources added that if a deal is reached, Paramount expects to retain a minority stake in the company, as well as a business relationship. Scott Mills is the CEO of BET.
BET is also unusual in Paramount’s portfolio in that some of its divisions have their own minority investors. BET+, for example, counts Perry as an investor, while BET Studios counts Kenya Barris and Rashida Jones as stakeholders. These deals would complicate any effort to merge BET+ or BET Studios into Paramount+ or any of the company’s other divisions.
Such a deal, if it comes to fruition, would give Paramount cash as it continues to grow its main streaming offering, Paramount+, and examines its holdings and determines how things fit together in its strategy moving forward.
In January, the company announced plans to merge its Paramount+ and Showtime businesses.
For Perry, a deal would not only give him and his company a pair of widely distributed cable channels, but also ownership of a streaming service that could become a business in its own right.
For Allen, a deal would mean an expansion of his cable business (The Weather Channel, like BET and VH1, is widely distributed) and another new streaming service to add to his portfolio of offerings that include Local Now and Sports.TV. .
Allen said THRof Seth Abramovich in 2020 that his ambitions for his media empire remain high.
“I’m almost the same age when Rupert Murdoch came here to America,” he said. “He was in his 50s. I’m 59. What you see today will be 10,000 times bigger.
Founded in 1980 by former cable lobbyist Robert Johnson and his wife Sheila Johnson, BET was the first cable network to cater specifically to African-American audiences. Paramount (then known as Viacom) acquired BET in 2000 for $2.3 billion.
A number of leading advertisers, including General Motors and Coca-Cola, have pledged to dramatically increase their advertising spend with minority-owned media companies. While BET targets a minority audience, its Paramount ownership would not fit this bill.
A BET owned by Tyler Perry or Byron Allen, however, would.
The Wall Street Journal first signaled Paramount’s intention to explore selling a stake in BET.