Viacom Launches Online BET Network for Viewers in 100 Countries

BET Play Subscribers to Pay $3.99 a Month for Live Feeds of Major Events

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Viacom introduced an online-only version of its BET cable TV network for international audiences in 100 countries, including China and Germany, a major expansion of a leading entertainment outlet for black viewers.

Subscribers to BET Play will pay $3.99 a month for live feeds of major events, beginning with this weekend's 2016 BET Awards, along with access to the BET Soul channel and a library of hit shows on-demand, the company said Wednesday in a statement.

Viacom is trying to turn another of its cable channels into a major force outside the U.S. MTV, Nickelodeon and Spike already have large followings in Europe and Asia, and people who pay for TV can use apps for half a dozen channels in 180 international territories, according to the company.

"The launch of BET Play significantly expands the brand's geographic availability by making it available direct to consumer in many markets where it has not previously had an established presence on TV," Michael Armstrong, an executive vice president with Viacom International Media Networks, said in a statement.

Foreign markets are potentially prime territory for online entertainment offerings. BET, available in the U.K., France and Africa, has struggled to obtain distribution on traditional pay-TV packages internationally. In the U.S., programmers are constrained from offering standalone internet services by their contracts with cable providers.

BET Play offers fans an opportunity to watch English-language BET content on their iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, as well as AirPlay-enabled television sets, without the need for a conventional pay-TV subscription.

-- Bloomberg News