On Monday, it was revealed that the filmmaker and actor Tyler Perry was in negotiations to purchase Paramount’s BET network as part of the ongoing consolidation scheme by the California-based company. Only hours later, another rival media mogul Byron Allen publicly showed a similar interest in the deal. Whoever of the two ends up buying the majority stake in BET, the deal will mark one of the most notable developments in Black media in recent years.
The BET Media, which includes the cable channels BET, VH1, as well as the streaming service BET+ is currently run by Paramount Pictures, one of the largest entertainment conglomerates in the United States. BET has been the go-to place for Black media and digital culture since the 1980s and is highly reputed among the African-American community.
BET Media has an unusual internal structure, which makes it difficult for Paramount to accommodate the network into its ongoing consolidation as part of the newly-established platform Paramount+. For instance, many of the BET divisions have minority investors of their own.
Getting rid of BET Media would also provide Paramount with much-needed cash for further expanding Paramount+. In January, the company announced the merger of its Showtime businesses with the new streaming platform.
One of the minority investors in BET+ is Tyler Perry, a billionaire African-American media star and producer who has been involved with the company since 2005. Perry’s first movie, Diary of A Mad Black Woman, was partly funded by the network. BET Media entered into a long-term business relationship with Perry in 2017, and the network now airs many of his recent shows and films. His recent programs, such as “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” have performed well on the platform. Apart from BET, Perry also owns a massive film studio complex in Atlanta, which is home to his popular movie franchise ‘Madea’.
Therefore, it came as no surprise that Tyler Perry was one of the lead candidates when the Wall Street Journal first reported on Monday the Paramount’s intention to sell its controlling share in BET Media. Anonymous sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Perry is already negotiating with Paramount, and the deal might actually close in the near future.
Only hours after the revelations, a spokesperson for rival Black media mogul Byron Allen announced that the Los Angeles comedian and businessman was also interested in pursuing the acquisition. Over the past few years, Allen’s portfolio has grown multi-fold as the Allen Media Group has come to acquire the Weather Channel. Allen also owns a free streaming app known as Local Now.
All in all, the negotiations are likely in initial stages at this point. Whoever ends up winning the bidding war for the multi-billion dollar BET Media will gain massive influence on Black media and culture for decades to come.