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Potential Sale of BET Attracts Major Suitors

Logo for the media company BET.

The Take

  • Paramount is weighing a sale of BET Media Group, which includes the cable network BET and VH1. 
  • Actor-producer Tyler Perry, producer-executive Byron Allen, and musician Sean “Diddy” Combs have all expressed interest in purchasing a majority stake in BET.
  • By selling the cable network BET, Paramount can add cash as it builds its in-house streaming network Paramount+.
  • Minority investors could complicate the deal within the BET family. Paramount has not announced an official sale.

Earlier this month, reports emerged that Paramount Global might be looking to sell the BET Media Group, which includes the cable networks BET and VH1. BET—short for “Black Entertainment Television”—is best known for its focus on Black entertainment, including music and television programming from Black creators.

Early reports in the Wall Street Journal singled out Tyler Perry and Byron Allen as initial suitors for the network. Since then, Variety reported that Sean “Diddy” Combs expressed interest in BET. According to The New York Times, Group Black, a Black-owned media company, has also expressed interest in BET. As of press time, no one is in official talks with Paramount Global.

Tyler Perry already has an overall deal with Paramount, creates content for BET, and owns a minority stake in BET+, the network’s streaming service. Byron Allen owns The Weather Channel and several local television stations, and BET would add to his portfolio of cable networks. Sean “Diddy” Combs owns Combs Enterprises, which includes restaurants, Revolt TV, a clothing line, and a piece of the Cîroc vodka brand. Group Black aims to invest and grow Black-owned media businesses and recently put in a bid for Vice Media Group.

Paramount Global has not commented on reports about a potential sale. Still, Chief Financial Officer Naveen Chopra told Yahoo Finance Live, “In general, we are always looking at different ways to create value for our shareholders.”

Earlier this year, Paramount declined an offer to sell Showtime for $3 billion and has since incorporated the network into its streaming service, now called Paramount+ with Showtime.

Selling BET would allow Paramount Global to put more money towards Paramount+ and its ad-supported streaming network Pluto TV.

Can Paramount really sell BET?

BET was launched in 1980 by Robert L. Johnson as the first national programming service for a Black audience. Viacom, now known as Paramount Global, acquired BET in 2000 for $2.3 billion. The BET Media Group now includes BET, VH1, BET+, and BET Content Studios.

While Paramount has its streaming platform Paramount+, BET also launched BET+ in 2019 with Tyler Perry. The platform includes exclusive original films and TV shows from BET and Tyler Perry, programming that is not available on Paramount+.

However, launching BET+ and BET Content Studios two years ago complicated ownership stakes for Paramount Global. Tyler Perry is a minority shareholder of BET+. BET Studios includes Kenya Barris, Rashida Jones, and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas as principal partners and stakeholders.

It’s unclear if Paramount would need to buy out stakeholders or if it can sell a majority share in the BET Media Group without impacting other shareholders.

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