WSJ: Tyler Perry interested in buying majority stake in BET

Atlanta mogul Tyler Perry is interested in buying a majority stake in BET Media Group from Paramount Global, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources.

Paramount is seeking to sell a majority stake in BET Media Group, which owns the BET cable network and studio, VH1, and the streaming service BET+, and caters to a Black audience.

Monies from such a sale would help build Paramount+ and its free, ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV, the story said.

A spokeswoman for Perry declined to comment.

Byron Allen, who owns Atlanta-based The Weather Channel and several cable networks as part of Allen Media Group, is also in the hunt. A rep for Allen Monday evening said in a statement that Allen “will be pursuing the acquisition of the network.”

Since 2017, Perry has had a working deal to create content for Paramount’s networks and owns a minority stake in the streaming service BET+, where much of his recent TV scripted content resides.

In recent years, he has produced several shows for BET, BET+ and Nickelodeon including “The Oval,” “Young Dylan,” “Sistas,” “Ruthless,” “Bruh” and “Zatima.” He has separate deals to create films for Amazon and Netflix. All his TV shows are shot at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.

Other BET+ shows unrelated to Perry such as the sitcom “The Ms. Pat Show” starring Ms. Pat and the drama “Kingdom Business” featuring Yolanda Adams are also produced in Atlanta.

Paramount, which hopes to retain a minority stake in BET Media Group, doesn’t publicly release how many subscribers pay for BET+, which launched in 2019. Its much larger Paramount+ streaming service had 56 million subscribers as of Dec. 31 and the company plans to merge it with its Showtime streaming service later this year.

BET Studios, a production arm of BET that launched in 2021 to create shows for Paramount and third-party platforms, also features minority stakeholders such as “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris, actress Rashida Jones and “S.W.A.T.” co-creator Aaron Rahsaan Thomas. It hasn’t made any announcements of shows but did sign a deal with Gabrielle Union’s production company.

Robert Johnson founded the original BET cable network in 1980 and sold the company to Viacom in 2001. Viacom has since been renamed Paramount Global.

BET under Johnson began with music videos and old sitcoms, later adding news programming and stand-up comedy like “BET ComicView.” Critics over the years maligned the network for airing misogynistic rap videos.

In the 2000s, it focused more on entertainment shows such as video show “106 & Park” and in the 2010s, scripted programs like “The Game” and “Being Mary Jane,” both shot in Atlanta. The BET Hip Hop Awards for many years has also been held in Atlanta. And this past Sunday, sister station BET HER hosted its own awards show in Atlanta.

VH1 was once a older-skewing music video station to MTV in its early years but by the 2000s had become a repository for reality shows like “My Fair Brady” and “Flavor of Love.” In the 2010s, it began targeting an older female Black audience with programs such as “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta,” “Basketball Wives,” and “Black Ink Crew.” Currently, it also airs 1990s sitcoms such as “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “The Wayans Bros.” and “Living Single.”

CNBC, citing an unnamed source, said BET Media Group generated $1.5 billion in revenue for Paramount last year.