NEW YORK—At a time when media companies are under increased pressure to diversify on-screen and off-screen talent, ViacomCBS’s BET has launched BET Studios, which the company is calling “an unprecedented studio venture that offers equity ownership for Black content creators.”
BET Studios will draw on the infrastructure and financial resources of BET and ViacomCBS and will create premium television series and films Paramount+, SHOWTIME, CBS, Nickelodeon, BET+, BET and other ViacomCBS divisions. It will also target select third-party outlets that are looking for content from established and rising Black creatives, BET said.
BET Studios will launch with principal partners Kenya Barris, Rashida Jones and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas.
BET Studios will be headed by Aisha Summers Burke, who was recently appointed executive vice-president and general manager of the new venture.
“The demand for premium content from Black creators has accelerated dramatically as a result of both the rapidly changing media and social landscapes,” said BET president Scott Mills. “BET, with our 40-year legacy of celebrating Black culture, and the full power of the ViacomCBS ecosystem—is uniquely positioned to service this demand. As a company with its origin in Black entrepreneurship, we are incredibly excited to create the first major studio to provide Black creators with ownership, creative freedom and the unparalleled partnership and support of BET. I am thrilled to have Aisha at the helm of this venture, and I look forward to our collaboration with our amazing creative partners in BET Studios.”
“BET Studios is an exciting and novel extension of the storied BET brand, and we have a structure well-suited to our times to bring top talent into this production company with real ownership,” added David Nevins, chief content officer, scripted originals, Paramount+ & chairman and chief executive officer, Showtime Networks Inc. “Scott Mills deserves tremendous credit for driving this innovative new business from idea to reality – and Kenya, Rashida and Aaron, could not be a more talented or in-demand group to lead this venture along with Aisha Summers.”
In the new role heading BET Studios, Aisha Summers Burke will be responsible for working collaboratively with the Studio’s formidable creative partners and key internal constituencies. Along with overseeing the day-to-day creative affairs for the company, she will also be responsible for the BET Studios content slate and focusing on growing the Studio’s production output across both internal and external platforms. Burke will report to BET President Scott Mills.
Prior to joining BET, Burke spent thirteen years at Warner Bros. Television, most recently serving as vice-president of scripted television for the cable and streaming division of Warner Horizon before it merged with Warner Bros. TV in 2020.
George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.
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