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BET tweaks programming

Laura Sturza

As a new network targeting African- American viewers prepares for

its mid-year launch, Black Entertainment Television continues to

fine-tune its lineup.


BET’s Burbank operations produce the network’s entertainment

shows, including “ComicView.” Earlier this month, the company struck

a syndication deal, acquiring rights to air the television shows “The

Parkers,” “Soul Food,” and “Girlfriends.”


The announcement of the new lineup came just days before Comcast

-- the nation’s largest cable TV company -- announced plans to launch

a television station geared toward black viewers.

“Comcast is committed to providing a diverse array of programming

choices for all of our subscribers,” spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick said.

“In addition, we view the urban multicultural audience as


BET’s cost for the new shows -- coupled with a reduction in


producing original shows -- means the network cut 40 jobs from its

Burbank, New York and Washington, D.C. offices, BET spokesman Michael

Lewellen said. But the staffing reduction signals a redistribution of

resources, not a downturn in the company’s fiscal stability.

“Our ad numbers have continued to grow, even with the economy

being flat,” Lewellen said.

As it enters the marketplace, Comcast will “work aggressive- ly

with all cable and satellite providers to obtain wide distribution,”


Fitzpatrick said, though he did not know if Burbank subscribers would

have access to the station, which has not been named.

Comcast is not the first station to enter the marketplace in the

23 years since BET was founded, Lewellen said, citing two other

networks, one which is still in operation.

“The African-American audience is certainly very large,” Lewellen


But BET’s scope reaches beyond the nation’s 12 million

African-American cable subscribers to a crossover audience of 75

million homes, Lewellen said.

Since the new network has not released programming details,

Lewellen could not comment on the potential for competition.

“To what degree [Comcast] will differentiate itself from BET,

we’ll have to see,” Lewellen said.