TV Upfront

BET Unveils Most Ambitious Programming Slate in Its 35-Year History

African-American Powerhouse Woos Buyers With Sitcoms, Drama, Reality

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'Being Mary Jane' is back for another season.
'Being Mary Jane' is back for another season.
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BET Networks on Thursday took the wraps off its 2015-16 upfront slate, a blend of scripted series and reality shows designed to further strengthen BET's status as the top network for African Americans.

Among the more high-profile newcomers are: "Chasing Destiny," an all-female singing-competition series starring Kelly Rowland (Destiny's Child); "DeSean Jackson: Home Team," an unscripted show about the women who manage the professional and personal affairs of Washington's $24 million wide receiver and return specialist; and "Zoe Moon," a rom-com starring Brandy Norwood as a cosmetics mogul who dives back into the dating pool after divorcing her prizefighter husband.

Ms. Norwood will also suit up for the ninth and final season of BET's "The Game," which premieres Wednesday, June 3. Also coming back for a return engagement is the one-hour Gabrielle Union drama "Being Mary Jane," which was awarded a third season back in February, and Kevin Hart's sendup of reality shows, "Real Husbands of Hollywood," which kicks off its fourth season this fall.

"We continue to give our viewers what they want -- high quality content that respects, reflects and elevates them." said Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO, BET Networks, who added that the company has invested in more original programming than at any other time in its 35-year history.

BET also has four movies in the works from Queen Latifah's Flavor Unit Entertainment, the production company that recently re-branded the company's sibling network, Centric, as the "first network designed for black women."

As Michele Thornton, senior VP of ad sales at Centric notes, African-American women boast an aggregate buying power of $260 billion and watch more TV than women from any other ethnic group.

"The African-American woman is an increasingly powerful, yet often overlooked, consumer," Ms. Thornton said. "Centric is the first network to deliver the programming that celebrates, inspires and addresses her unique perspective."

BET's unparalleled deliveries of African-American viewers has kept the flagship network flush in an often rocky year for ad-supported cable nets. Season-to-date, BET has booked an estimated $386.5 million in ad sales revenue, according to iSpot.tv. Since mid-September, BET's biggest individual spenders are Walmart ($7.91 million), Geico ($6.33 million) and Universal Pictures ($5.06 million).

Other core clients include Revlon, Progressive, Domino's and T-Mobile.