BET Networks continued the yearlong celebration of its 40th anniversary with its president Scott Mills ringing the opening bell at Nasdaq on Wednesday. More than two dozen executives from the venerable company joined Mills as he symbolically started the trading day at the stock exchange’s location in New York’s Times Square.
“A lot has happened since BET’s launch,” said Mills just prior to ringing the bell.
“Society has embraced Black culture, mainstream media has focused on African Americans’ diverse stories and diverse voices and we’ve even had the first Black president.
“But we know a lot remains to be accomplished,” he continued. “And, that’s why BET’s mission is to entertain, engage and ultimately empower African Americans. It’s a lofty goal, but we’re confident we can achieve it.”
A subsidiary of Viacom Inc. since 2001, BET was founded as Black Entertainment Television by entrepreneur Bob Johnson on January 25, 1980. In the years prior, Johnson worked in subscription-based television and was also a lobbyist for the National Cable Television Association.
Similar to Ted Turner with CNN and Bill Rasmussen with ESPN, Johnson knew he had a niche idea with a cable channel focused solely on catering to a Black audience.
According to a Wharton School of Business biography, Johnson raised his initial $500,000 in startup capital from Telecommunications Inc. founder John Malone, and then made his vision of BET a reality.
The company has since expanded to several platforms including BET Her, the BET Awards, the BET Honors, the BET Walk of Fame and most recently its streaming service BET+. As the most prevalent network targeting the African American community, BET reaches more than 85 million households and continues to be the primary destination for Black entertainment, music, culture and news.
Mills, who became the network’s president in 2017, told BET.com exclusively that his plan going forward is to have BET become a presence for its audience in every way possible.
“The key is to take the amazing brand that is BET and make sure we show up on every platform that is relevant,” he said.
“Our view is that our audience, particularly African Americans, love content created for African Americans. Our opportunity is to fulfill that interest.
“This is about making content that breaks through so we’re working with creatives known for breakthrough content like Tyler Perry and it’s delivering exactly as we expected. That’s why we work with people like Lena Waithe who have unique views and perspectives. It’s exciting and the team is up to the challenge.”
Photo by: Libby Greene/Nasdaq, Inc.