Black Entertainment Television (BET) is a television network founded by Robert L. Johnson and Sheila Johnson in 1980. It was the first network in the United States dedicated to providing programming primarily targeting African American viewers. BET initially started as a cable channel broadcasting music videos, featuring a mix of popular music genres, including R&B, hip-hop, and gospel. Over time, the network expanded its programming to include a wide range of content, such as news, talk shows, sitcoms, dramas, movies, and reality TV shows.
BET played a significant role in showcasing African American artists, entertainers, and cultural figures who were often underrepresented in mainstream media. It provided a platform for African American talent and contributed to the development of black entertainment and culture. In addition to music videos, some of the notable programs that aired on BET include “106 & Park,” a music countdown and variety show; “BET Awards,” an annual awards ceremony celebrating African American achievement in music, acting, sports, and other fields; and “Being Mary Jane,” a drama series starring Gabrielle Union.
Over the years, BET launched several sister channels, including BET Her (formerly Centric), BET Jams (formerly MTV Jams), and BET Soul (formerly VH1 Soul), each catering to different aspects of African American culture and music. In 2001, Robert L. Johnson sold BET to Viacom for a reported $3 billion, and the network became part of the Viacom CBS conglomerate. Since then, BET has continued to produce and broadcast a variety of programming, including original shows, documentaries, and specials, aimed at African American audiences.
BET has been recognized for its contributions to African American culture and entertainment. It has received numerous awards and honors, including NAACP Image Awards and a Peabody Award. The network continues to be a prominent platform for African American voices and perspectives, addressing important social and cultural issues within the black community.