Discovering the Owners of BET Network: A Comprehensive Guide

The BET Network is one of the most popular cable networks in the United States, known for its programs catering to the Black community. The network has been in existence for more than four decades and has a wide range of viewership across the country and beyond. However, not many people are aware of who the owners of BET Network are and how they came to acquire the network.

The network has had a long and interesting history, with its ownership changing hands over the years. Many people have been involved in the growth and development of the network, each playing a significant role in its success. The current owners have been instrumental in taking the network to new heights over the past few years, making it a force to reckon with in the entertainment industry.

This article delves deeper into the owners of BET Network and their journey to acquiring the network. We will explore their backgrounds, their contributions to the network and the broader entertainment industry, as well as their vision for the future of the network. Whether you are a fan of BET Network or simply curious about the owners of one of the most successful cable networks in the country, this article has got you covered.

The History of BET Network

BET Network, which stands for Black Entertainment Television, was created in 1980 by Robert L. Johnson, an American entrepreneur. Initially, the network was launched as a cable channel that focused on providing programming aimed at African Americans.

Over time, BET transitioned from being a small cable channel to a network that was available to millions of viewers across the United States. In the early 1990s, BET began airing original programming, including music videos, award shows, and sitcoms LeoVegas.

In 2001, BET was acquired by Viacom, a media conglomerate that also owns MTV, VH1, and Comedy Central. Despite the acquisition, BET continued to remain focused on providing programming that reflected the experiences of African Americans.

Today, BET is one of the leading sources of African American entertainment, providing programming that includes news, music, comedy, and drama. The network has also expanded its presence online, with a website that offers news, exclusive content, and interactive features for viewers.

The Previous Owners of BET Network

BET Network, now part of ViacomCBS, has gone through several ownership changes since its founding in 1980 by businessman Robert L. Johnson. In 1991, Johnson sold a majority stake in the network to media conglomerate Viacom.

Under Viacom's ownership, BET Network expanded its programming and launched several successful award shows, including the BET Awards and the BET Hip Hop Awards. However, the network faced criticism for its portrayal of African Americans and its heavy reliance on music videos.

In 2001, Viacom bought out Johnson's remaining stake in BET Network, making it a wholly owned subsidiary of the media giant. The acquisition gave Viacom a strong foothold in the African-American market and helped the company reach a more diverse audience.

In 2018, Viacom merged with CBS Corporation to form ViacomCBS. BET Network remains a key part of the company's portfolio, providing a platform for Black culture and entertainment.

Viacom's Purchase of BET Network


BET Network, founded by Robert L. Johnson in 1980, became the first television network targeting African American audiences. It covered music, entertainment, news, and public affairs programming. Viacom, a multinational media conglomerate, was interested in acquiring BET Network to increase its diversity and reach into the African American market.

The Purchase

In 2000, Viacom bought BET Network for $3 billion, making it a wholly owned subsidiary. This made BET Network part of Viacom's portfolio, which also included MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, and other popular media brands. The acquisition made BET Network the largest black-controlled media company in the world.


The purchase had a significant impact on BET Network's programming and audience reach. Viacom provided the network with vast resources, funding, and expertise that led to new content and audience engagement. It also created a platform for new artists, musicians, and entertainers from various backgrounds. The media conglomerate's acquisition of BET Network expanded its media empire and gave it an important entry into the African American market.


The acquisition of BET Network by Viacom was a game-changer in the media industry. It created an opportunity for media companies to diversify their portfolios and better represent the African American community. BET Network, which will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2020, remains an important part of Viacom's brand.

The Rise of Debra Lee

Debra Lee is a well-known figure in the media industry, and her rise to success within BET Network is an inspiring story.

Lee began her career as a lawyer, but soon realized that her true passion was in media and entertainment. She joined BET Network in 1986 as the company's first in-house counsel, and quickly climbed the ranks to become the CEO in 2005.

Under Lee's leadership, BET Network saw tremendous growth and success. She introduced new programming that spoke directly to the African-American audience, including popular shows like "106 & Park" and "The Game".

Lee's dedication to promoting diversity and giving a platform to voices that are often marginalized within the industry has made her a role model for many aspiring media professionals.

Her impact on the industry has not gone unnoticed - Lee has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades throughout her career, including being named one of Forbes' "Most Powerful Women in the World".

The rise of Debra Lee within BET Network is a testament to the power of hard work, dedication, and the importance of diversity within the media industry.

BET Network's Expansion Into Various Markets

BET Network, the first black-owned entertainment network in the United States, has expanded its reach into various markets since its inception in 1980. Originally focusing on African American music videos and entertainment, BET has since expanded into broader markets, including news, sports, and reality TV.

One notable expansion occurred in 1993, when BET launched both "BET Comedy" and "BET Movies/Starz!3". These channels gave BET viewers access to a wider range of programming, including popular TV shows and movies.

BET also expanded its reach beyond the United States by launching BET International in 1998. This channel distributes BET programming to countries such as Canada, the Caribbean, and the United Kingdom.

In recent years, BET has also made forays into the digital realm. In 2015, the network launched, a website featuring news, videos, and other digital content. BET also produces original programming for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

In conclusion,

BET Network's expansion into various markets has allowed the network to grow and reach new audiences. From its early focus on African American music and entertainment to its more recent ventures into news, sports, and digital media, BET continues to evolve as a leading force in the entertainment industry.

BET Network's Programming: From Music Videos to Original Content

BET Network began as a music video channel in the 1980s, featuring hip-hop and R&B artists. Over time, the channel expanded its programming to include original content such as talk shows, sitcoms, and dramas. Today, BET Network is known for its diverse programming that appeals to a wide audience.

One of the most popular shows on BET Network is "Being Mary Jane," starring Gabrielle Union as a successful news anchor balancing her personal and professional life. Another fan favorite is "The Game," a comedy-drama about the lives of professional football players and their significant others.

BET Network also airs award shows such as the BET Awards and the Soul Train Awards, which celebrate the achievements of African American artists in music, film, and television. Additionally, the channel features documentaries and specials that explore important issues affecting the Black community, such as police brutality and mental health.

BET Network continues to evolve and produce new and exciting content that reflects the voices and experiences of its audience. From music videos to original programming, the channel remains a relevant and important platform for Black entertainment and culture.

BET Network's Criticisms and Controversies

Criticism for Lack of Diversity

BET Network has faced criticism for its lack of diversity, primarily in its programming. Many have argued that BET perpetuates negative stereotypes of the African American community and fails to accurately represent the diversity within that community. There have also been concerns about the network's hiring practices and lack of representation in leadership roles.

Controversies over Programming

BET has faced controversy over some of its programming choices, including shows that have been criticized for promoting colorism and misogyny. The network has also faced backlash for its decision to air reality shows that feature controversial personalities such as Lil' Kim and T.I despite their past legal troubles.

Conservative Criticism

Conservative critics have accused BET Network of being racially divisive and promoting a type of "black nationalism" that is counterproductive to racial harmony in the United States. These critics have also taken issue with the network's coverage of political issues, accusing it of being biased towards liberal viewpoints.

Advertising Controversies

BET has faced controversy over some of its advertising choices, including a controversial ad for the movie "The Birth of a Nation" that aired on the network. The ad was criticized for promoting a movie that glorified slavery and the subjugation of African Americans.

Lawsuits and Legal Disputes

BET Network has faced several lawsuits and legal disputes over the years, including a high-profile lawsuit in 2008 from former CEO Debra Lee's assistant, who accused Lee of retaliating against her for reporting sexual harassment. The network has also faced legal disputes with artists and producers over royalties and licensing fees.

The Departure of Debra Lee and Management Changes

Debra Lee Steps Down from BET Network

In May 2018, Debra Lee announced that she would step down from her role as CEO and Chairman of BET Network. Lee had been with the network for over 30 years and had overseen its growth into a leading media company for black audiences. Her departure is seen as the end of an era for the network and a chance for new leadership to come in and make changes.

New Management Takes Over

Following Lee's departure, Viacom (BET's parent company) appointed Scott M. Mills as President of BET Networks. Mills was previously the President of BET Interactive and Digital Media, and has been with the company for 18 years. Mills will be responsible for leading BET into a new era and expanding its audience.

In addition to Mills' appointment, Viacom has made other management changes at BET. Connie Orlando was named Executive Vice President and Head of Programming, while Jeanine Liburd was named Chief Social Impact and Communications Officer. These changes signal a new direction for the network, with an emphasis on social impact and engaging with audiences through digital media.

The Future of BET

With new leadership in place, BET is poised for a period of change and innovation. The network will be looking to expand its audience and stay relevant in an increasingly crowded media landscape. Its commitment to social impact and engagement with audiences through digital media will be key to its success.

  • Debra Lee steps down from BET Network
  • Scott M. Mills becomes President of BET Networks
  • Connie Orlando named Executive Vice President and Head of Programming
  • Jeanine Liburd named Chief Social Impact and Communications Officer
  • BET looks to expand audience and stay relevant

BET Network's Current Owners: ViacomCBS

BET Network, an American cable channel widely known for showcasing cultural programming that caters to the African American audience, is a subsidiary of ViacomCBS, one of the world's largest media and entertainment conglomerates.

In 2001, Viacom, a leading media corporation, acquired BET Network for a reported $3 billion, after which BET Network became a subsidiary of Viacom. However, in December 2019, Viacom and CBS Corporation merged to create a new company, ViacomCBS, bringing together two media giants under one roof.

Now, as a subsidiary of ViacomCBS, BET Network operates under the direction of the parent corporation's leadership and guidance, leveraging the extensive resources, technologies, and industry expertise available at its disposal.

ViacomCBS, the parent company, boasts an impressive portfolio of media and entertainment properties including CBS Television Network, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and more. As such, BET Network benefits from synergies across its sister companies and the global reach that comes with being part of an extensive global media network.

The Financial Success of BET Network Under ViacomCBS

Since its acquisition by ViacomCBS in 2001, BET Network has seen significant financial success. ViacomCBS is a multinational media conglomerate that owns and operates various television networks, including MTV, Comedy Central, and Paramount Network.

BET Network's success can be attributed to its focus on black culture and entertainment, which allowed it to attract a loyal audience. Additionally, the network's expansion into digital platforms and original programming has helped to increase overall revenue.

According to ViacomCBS's 2020 fourth-quarter earnings report, BET Network experienced a 3% growth in revenue compared to the previous year, resulting in $468 million. The report also noted that the network saw a 15% increase in digital revenue.

BET Network has continued to produce popular shows, such as "BET Awards," "Boomerang," and "Sistas," which have contributed to its financial success. Additionally, its partnerships with advertisers, such as Procter & Gamble and McDonald's, have helped to increase revenue through targeted advertising.

Overall, the financial success of BET Network under ViacomCBS has been driven by its focus on black culture, expansion into digital platforms, and partnerships with advertisers. As the network continues to produce popular content and expand its audience, it is likely to see continued financial success in the future.

The Future of BET Network and Its Programming

Shift Towards Diverse Content

The BET Network has acknowledged the need to diversify its programming to appeal to a wider audience. In recent years, the network has shifted away from its traditional focus on music videos and black entertainment towards a more diverse range of content. This includes shows and movies featuring a more diverse cast, showcasing relatable storylines that resonate with a global audience.

Streaming and Digital Expansion

The network has also recognized the importance of digital platforms in today's media landscape. BET Network has invested heavily in digital expansion, creating exclusive digital series and partnering with various streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. This focus on digital media expansion has put the network in a strong position to attract younger and more diverse viewership while competing with larger networks.

Strong Emphasis on Social Causes

The BET Network has always been at the forefront of highlighting social issues affecting the black community. Moving forward, the network will continue to place a strong emphasis on social causes such as police brutality, mass incarceration, and youth empowerment. By leveraging its platform, BET Network can bring awareness to these issues and create a more inclusive and equal society.

Expanding Global Footprint

BET Network is one of the leading networks in black entertainment and has a significant presence in various markets around the world. The network plans to continue its expansion into new markets by partnering with distributors and licensing its content to international networks. This expansion will not only generate more revenue for the network, but also further its goal of promoting diversity and inclusivity in every corner of the globe.

The Impact of BET Network on the Black Community

BET Network has played a significant role in shaping the cultural landscape of the Black community. The network has provided a platform for Black artists, musicians, actors, and filmmakers to showcase their talents and reach a wider audience. Through its programming, BET has created a sense of community and pride among Black viewers.

The network has also been a catalyst for creating social change. BET has aired documentaries and shows that shed light on important issues affecting the Black community, such as police brutality, racial inequality, and systemic racism. Through these programs, BET has encouraged dialogue and activism, inspiring viewers to take action and demand change.

BET has also had a significant impact on the entertainment industry. The network has launched the careers of several Black celebrities, including Queen Latifah, Kevin Hart, and Tyler Perry. BET has also introduced innovative programming, such as the annual BET Awards, which celebrate the achievements of Black artists in music, film, and sports.

  • BET Network has provided a platform for Black artists to showcase their talents.
  • Through its programming, BET has created a sense of community and pride among Black viewers.
  • BET has encouraged dialogue and activism through its documentaries and shows.
  • The network has launched the careers of several Black celebrities and introduced innovative programming.

BET Network's Influence on Pop Culture

The Rise of BET Network

BET Network, or Black Entertainment Television Network, was founded in 1980 by Robert L. Johnson, with the purpose of showcasing African American culture and entertainment. It started as a cable network and quickly grew in popularity, reaching millions of viewers in the United States and abroad. BET Network's programming includes music videos, award shows, TV series, documentaries and films.

BET Network and Music

Music has always been a central part of BET Network's programming. BET Network was the first platform to showcase African American music videos in the 1980s, and it continues to do so today. BET Network has also been instrumental in launching the careers of many successful artists, including Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj. BET Network's award shows, such as the BET Awards and the Soul Train Awards, have become iconic in the world of music and entertainment.

BET Network and Black Culture

BET Network's programming has played a significant role in promoting black culture and providing representation for African Americans on television. BET Network has aired documentaries on topics such as civil rights, HIV/AIDS prevention, and black entrepreneurship. BET Network's TV series, such as Being Mary Jane and The Game, have showcased black professionals in a positive light, providing representation for a group that was often underrepresented or misrepresented on television.

BET Network and Social Issues

BET Network has also been vocal about social justice issues affecting the black community, such as police brutality and racial inequality. BET Network's programming has showcased different perspectives on these issues, providing a platform for discussion and debate. Additionally, BET Network has collaborated with different organizations to raise awareness on important issues affecting African Americans, such as the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP.

BET Network's Awards and Recognitions

BET Network has been recognized and awarded for its contribution to the entertainment industry and its efforts to promote diversity, inclusion, and social empowerment. Some of the awards and recognitions received by the network include:

  • NAACP Image Awards: BET Network has won several NAACP Image Awards in multiple categories, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Comedy Series, and Outstanding Variety Series or Special.
  • BET Awards: The BET Awards, created by BET Network in 2001, recognizes achievements in music, entertainment, and sports by African Americans and other minorities. It has become one of the most prestigious awards shows in the industry, showcasing some of the biggest names in music and entertainment.
  • Primetime Emmy Awards: BET Network has received several Emmy nominations for its original programming, including The Bobby Brown Story, a biopic about the life and career of singer Bobby Brown.
  • CableACE Awards: BET Network has won numerous CableACE Awards in various categories, including children's programming, documentary programming, and entertainment specials.

In addition to these awards, BET Network has also been recognized for its work in promoting social empowerment and raising awareness about important social issues. Its programming has addressed topics such as voting rights, police brutality, and mental health, among others.

BET Network's Partnerships and Collaborations

BET Network has established several partnerships and collaborations throughout its history in order to expand its programming and reach a wider audience. One of its major partnerships is with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which has helped the network create and produce the annual BET Awards.

BET has also partnered with several major media companies, including Viacom and CBS Corporation. In 2019, BET and Tyler Perry Studios announced a partnership to launch a new streaming service called BET+. This collaboration will bring exclusive content to the streaming platform, including original shows and movies created by Tyler Perry.

In addition to partnerships, BET has collaborated with numerous celebrities and musicians to produce award-winning programming. Some of its most successful collaborations include the biographical miniseries "The New Edition Story" and the documentary series "Finding Justice," which explored social justice issues in America.

  • BET's partnership with the NAACP has resulted in the creation and production of the annual BET Awards.
  • The network has established partnerships with media companies like Viacom and CBS Corporation.
  • BET and Tyler Perry Studios collaborated to launch the new streaming service BET+.
  • BET has collaborated with celebrities and musicians to produce award-winning programming, such as "The New Edition Story" and "Finding Justice."