Upfronts / Newfronts

Its Audience Aging, BET Makes Millennial Push in Upfront

Adds Two New Millennial-Targeted Shows, Touts Research on the Cohort

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Diggy Simmons, son of Run DMC's Rev. Run, is getting a scripted series on BET.
Diggy Simmons, son of Run DMC's Rev. Run, is getting a scripted series on BET. Credit: DiggyWorld

BET is making a push for millennials in this year's upfront.

The Viacom-owned cable network, which targets African-Americans with shows like "The Game" and "Real Husbands of Hollywood," has seen its viewership gradually age upward. Its audience's median age is now about 38, up from 31 just five years ago.

Now BET is trying to counter the trend with younger stars and programming.

To that end the network plans to promote a pair of new series targeting millennials at its upfront presentation Wednesday night: "The Start Up," a scripted series starring rapper Diggy Simmons (son of Run DMC's Rev. Run) as the founder of an entertainment and lifestyle blog; and a talk show from 20-year-old singer, actress and activist Keke Palmer on topics including social issues, pop culture, fashion and sex.

The network has also acquired content, like the talk show "The Real," that's meant to appeal to the younger demographic.

BET has found some pockets of loyalty among millennials for shows like "106 & Park," its interview-style music series, as well as tent pole events like the "BET Awards," said Matthew Barnill, exec VP-corporate market research at BET.

As part of its focus on millennials, BET also issued a research study on the demographic, specifically looking at the lifestyles, attitudes, aspirations, media consumption and brand loyalties of African-Americans in the demo.

"There's a gap in understanding African-American millennials," said Vicky Free, BET's chief marketing officer.

"Typically the demo is lumped all together," Mr. Barnill added, but African-American millennials are at what he calls the "nexus of next."

Most recently, BET has found success with the scripted series "Being Mary Jane," starring Gabrielle Union, which averaged about 3 million viewers for its February finale.

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