BET Networks Chairman and CEO, Debra Lee, is many things: a visionary, a savvy businesswoman, a “bridge-builder.” Lee’s stellar accomplishments and unparalleled influence have culminated in her induction into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame.
In her 25-year career, Lee has made an impressive impact on the industry. She played an integral role in taking BET public in 1991, making it the first Black company to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In addition, she oversaw the launch of Centric, a television network that currently reaches the homes of 31 million people in the U.S., Canada, and Caribbean.
The aggressive push to provide quality programming for BET’s 89 million-household audience – the highest in BET’s 30-year history – is a testament to Lee’s leadership. The network continues to conduct focus groups and research as the company prepares to expand its mobile reach. Another priority is creating more original television programming with a focus on sitcoms.
"She is able to connect with the community she serves, with her team, with partners in a way that many of us should emulate," says President and CEO of Viacom, Philippe Dauman.
Perhaps Lee’s biggest contribution to BET lies in her tireless efforts to build community, with a particular focus on the next generation. She has made a commitment to grooming the next class of minority and women executives.
"That's one of the most rewarding parts of working at BET: being able to hire young, smart executives who are really excited about contributing to the industry," the CEO explains. This unique and rare combination of business and community building contributes to Lee’s continued success at BET and her influence globally.
"What I'm most impressed about with [her] is that she hasn't just used BET as a form of entertainment," says music mogal and entrepreneur Sean "Diddy" Combs. "She's used BET as a way to help to change the world. She's helped to break down the digital divide with BET.com. She's brought up issues of race and accountability. [Through original programming], she's broken down stereotypes and she's helped to elevate [the African-American community's] level of sophistication."