Variety magazine reports that Sean “Puffy” Combs is now in the hunt for a majority stake in Paramount Global’s BET Media, joining Tyler Perry and Byron Allen.
All three wealthy Black media moguls have ties to Atlanta. This is, of course, home base for Perry and his sprawling studio operations. Allen, whose media company is headquartered in Los Angeles, has owned the Atlanta-based Weather Channel cable network since 2018. Combs owns Revolt TV, which he launched in 2013 and recently relocated its headquarters to Atlanta. It brands itself as “the space for the unapologetic, authoritative voice of Hip Hop culture, which includes rap and R&B music, and social justice news.”
Paramount Global is focusing its energies on its primary subscription-based service Paramount+ and free streaming site Pluto TV. It also plans to incorporate Showtime into Paramount+. The company is considering placing its niche streaming service BET+ ― along with the original BET channel, VH1 and a new production arm BET Studios ― into the hands of a majority owner that can nurture the brand better.
Combs’ Revolt channel skews younger than BET. He could broaden his audience by having both brands. Revolt also has a strong digital and social media presence. He has already broadened his own business scope from music into film and TV production, fashion, spirits and cannabis.
On Instagram, Combs wrote: “Media is the most powerful industry in the world but it’s the industry where we have the least amount of ownership, influence and control! It’s time for BET to be Black-owned again so we have the power to tell our own stories, control our own narrative! This is not about me it’s about WE!!!! I’m building a team of leaders in the culture to pursue ownership in BET together! We have to unify our power and resources to create real change! #THETIMEISNOW.””
His competition Perry has an existing relationship with BET, providing TV shows for that channel and BET+, in which he already has a minority stake. This would be the first time he has owned a distribution channel if he gets it. Allen has owned a coterie of cable networks for many years and last year purchased the defunct Black News Channel to place its digital news operation TheGrio on its own cable channel.
The New York Times also reported a fourth potential bidder in Group Black, a Black-owned, Miami-based media company which recently tried to buy Vice Media and has teamed up with CVC Capital Partners, a private-equity firm based in Luxembourg, and other Black business people.
The Variety story does stress that all this is preliminary. No deal is imminent.
The New York Times noted that BET, the cable network, has seen its annual profit fall to $205 million last year from a peak of $319 million in 2013, citing data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Those figures exclude BET+ streaming service and VH1. Paramount doesn’t publicly release revenue or profit figures for BET Media.
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