Change is in the air.
Paramount is exploring a potential sale of a majority stake in its BET business, which includes BET, VH1, and the BET+ streaming service, a source familiar with the matter tells The Hollywood Reporter.
A second source tells THR that Tyler Perry, a longtime partner of BET, is engaged in conversations to buy the stake. Perry’s deal with Paramount, which began in 2017, is said to be coming up, and the deal, if it happens, would give him ownership of the brand, which airs many of his shows.
The sources both cautioned that the discussions are still in the early stages, and there is no guarantee of any transaction taking place. They added that if a deal closes, Paramount expects to maintain a minority stake in the business, as well as a commercial relationship. Scott Mills serves as BET’s CEO.
BET is also unusual within Paramount’s portfolio in that some of its divisions have minority investors of their own. BET+, for example, counts Perry as an investor, while BET Studios counts Kenya Barris and Rashida Jones as stakeholders. Those deals would complicate any effort to merge BET+ or BET Studios into Paramount+ or one of the company’s other studios.
Such a deal, if it happens, would give Paramount cash as it continues to build out its main streaming offering, Paramount+, and as it reviews its holdings and figures out where things piece together in its strategy moving forward.
In January, the company announced plans to merge its Paramount+ and Showtime businesses.
Founded in 1980 by former cable lobbyist Robert Johnson and his wife Sheila Johnson, the BET channel was the first cable network to specifically cater to African American audiences. Paramount (then known as Viacom) acquired BET in 2000 for $2.3 billion.
A number of high-profile advertisers, including General Motors and Coca-Cola, have committed to significantly increase their ad spend on minority-owned media companies. While BET targets a minority audience, its Paramount ownership would not fit that bill.
A Tyler Perry-owned BET, however, would.