Denmark West, BET Networks' president of digital media, said the network has teamed with Apple as its preferred partner for a music-purchasing platform that will debut in conjunction with this year's "Hip-Hop Awards," which tape Oct. 18 in Atlanta and will air on BET Oct. 23 at 8 p.m.
Mr. West said of the deal, "If I'm on BET.com and reading about an artist, I want to know, 'Where do I get their music?' Our partnership-based commerce model will provide deep integration into our site with the ability for people to buy it now." Additional terms of the deal were still under way prior to the awards air date.
Nike to debut shoe
Also unique to this year's awards is an integrated sponsorship deal with Nike, the first of its kind for the shoe maker. The "Hip-Hop Awards" will feature the debut of the limited-edition Nike and BET Air Force 1 sneaker, to commemorate the iconic shoe's 20th anniversary. The patent-leather Air Force 1 will come in an exclusive run of 250 pairs and will not be sold in stores. Rapper Ludacris announced the new shoe on BET's flagship music series, "106th and Park" yesterday.
Although viewers will be clamoring to get one of the rare pairs of BET Air Force 1, a more tangible sponsorship tied to this year's awards is an expansion of BET's Hot 16 contest, which it co-hosted with Yahoo Music last year. This year's partner, MySpace Music, is hosting the contest on its MySpace Hip-Hop home page, as well as its own award category, the "MySpace Rookie of the Year," honoring the year's best freshman rapper.
Mr. West said BET's partnership-based strategy with Apple and MySpace is indicative of the direction the company is heading in with all its content partners. The strategy started with BETN's existing relationship with MSN, part of Viacom's companywide ad partnership with Microsoft, estimated to be worth $500 million over the next four years.
Better content distribution
"It's not just about how do we increase the audience we have, it's also around better distribution of our content," said Mr. West, indicating that several additional content deals are currently in the works to syndicate BET shows on sites outside BET.com. "It's about, how do we partner around specific events and activities in order to drive awareness, where the benefit may not be measured in terms of dot-com traffic? We want to do things to push tune-in to on-air, might do things to drive awareness of new products, or we might have a special initiative around a local VOD exercise of a concert."
Also being woven into next week's "Hip-Hop Awards" is Fox Searchlight, which will exclusively premiere the trailer for "Notorious," the upcoming biopic of Notorious B.I.G., during a special memorial presentation for the slain rapper. Toyota is also on board as the official red-carpet sponsor, featuring the 2009 Yaris Liftback. And Alltel will sponsor its own award category, the Alltel Wireless People's Champ Award.