Debra Lee stood at the forefront of BET’s growth in terms of business and content during her tenure as the network’s CEO. Although she’s moved on from her previous role, she remains an important part of BET’s legacy.
With several heavyweight media moguls in the running to purchase BET, Lee took a moment to share thoughts with Real Times Media.
Lee revealed that she initially thought about purchasing BET.
“A couple of people called me and asked me if was I interested in buying it,” Lee told RTM. “I thought about it for maybe 15 minutes. It’s a great network and it’s grown into great multiple networks. But I wasn’t ready to return.”
According to multiple reports, Tyler Perry, Byron Allen and a group featuring 50 Cent, Shaq, and Kenya Barris are seeking to purchase a majority stake in BET.
Started by Bob Johnson in 1980, BET provided Black content in an era where minorities rarely got an opportunity to showcase work on network TV. In 2000, Johnson sold BET for $2.3 billion to Viacom. Viacom would eventually become Paramount.
Perry has worked with BET since 2017 and has several original programs on the streaming service BET+. If Perry is able to secure the deal, he would be able to add the cable station and streaming service to his media empire which also includes the 330-acre Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.
Allen heads Allen Media Group which is valued at over $4.5 billion and is the largest privately held media company in America.
50 Cent has partnered with Starz and ABC to produce several original programs. Kenya Barris has produced several TV shows and films such as “Black-ish,” and “Grown-ish.” And Shaq has delved into multiple business ventures after retiring from the NBA.
For Lee, she hopes the person who purchases BET will continue its growth in the media space.
“I don’t have a favorite in the fight,” Lee said. “I hope it works out great. Tyler Perry has been doing a lot of programming for BET and he has a very faithful audience. But I like being on the sideline watching.”
Overall, Lee is pushing for Black media as a whole to expand on all sectors, from network TV to digital content.
“I think the future of Black media is very important,” Lee said. “I’m glad there are outlets like [RTM] with digital coverage. It doesn’t all have to be on network TV.”
View video of Debra Lee’s response:
View full interview with Debra Lee below: