Producer and star Tyler Perry has expressed interest in buying a majority stake in BET as the television network’s owner, Paramount Global, looks to bring on a substantial partner, according to two people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.
The proposed marriage, should it come to fruition, would unite two power players in African American culture and media.
BET established itself as the go-to cable destination for Black-themed shows more than 40 years ago. In recent years, Perry’s programs, including “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” have performed well on BET.
The mogul, who also is a respected actor, has shown an appetite to expand his empire, which includes his popular “Madea” movie franchise, live plays and a sprawling 300-acre studios complex near Atlanta.
Representatives for Perry and Paramount declined to comment Monday.
Conversations with Perry are in the early stages, and some expect other bidders might join the fray.
The potential sale of BET was first reported by the Wall Street Journal; Hollywood trade papers quickly reported on Perry’s interest.
In recent years, Paramount Global, formerly known as ViacomCBS, has been searching for ways to raise money through a number of asset sales to pay down debt and focus on building its Paramount+ streaming service. More than a year ago, it reached a deal to sell its Studio City television and movie lot, for years the West Coast headquarters of CBS, for $1.85 billion.
The New York based company is smaller than most of its rivals, and it has been hit hard by declines in cable TV viewership.
Paramount recognizes the unique value of BET and its 3-year-old streaming service, BET+, and thus, it would like to retain a stake in the enterprise, according to one of the knowledgeable people.
Tyler Perry Studios currently has a minority stake in the BET+ service, so any union would expand the collaboration
Entrepreneur Robert Johnson launched BET, which stands for Black Entertainment Television, in 1980. The channel started with very few shows, including a gospel music series and a video music program with a set so flimsy that the host’s podium once collapsed on the air. But the channel grew and thrived.
The media giant then called Viacom acquired BET in 2003 for $3 billion.
This year’s potential sale comes amid a dramatic reshuffling in the media industry as legacy companies struggle to make the leap into streaming and scale back from their traditional focus on building linear TV channels.
Paramount has about 77 million subscribers to its various streaming services, including about 56 million subscribers to Paramount+. More than 21 million customers have signed up for its smaller streaming offerings such as BET+ and Showtime+.
Paramount has not provided a precise figure for BET+’s customer base.
Staff writer Greg Braxton contributed to this report.