ViacomCBS Launches BET Studios to Offer ‘Equity Ownership for Black Content Creators’

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ViacomCBS’s BET has launched BET Studios, “an unprecedented studio venture that offers equity ownership for Black content creators,” with partners Kenya Barris, Rashida Jones and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, the company announced Wednesday.

Per BET, “Propelled by the infrastructure and financing of BET and ViacomCBS, BET Studios will create premium television series and films for an array of internal buyers, including Paramount+, Showtime, CBS, Nickelodeon, BET+ and BET, in addition to select third-party platforms that seek best-in-class content from both leading and rising Black creatives.”

Aisha Summers Burke will lead BET Studios as executive vice president and general manager of the new arm of ViacomCBS and report directly to BET president Scott Mills. In her role, 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.”

“The demand for premium content from Black creators has accelerated dramatically as a result of both the rapidly changing media and social landscapes. 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,” Mills said in a statement. “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.”

“The investment being made by Scott, David Nevins, Bob Bakish and the ViacomCBS team into BET Studios is not only an investment in Black storytelling, it is also an investment in the culture,” Barris added. “And while individual success is great, being able to amplify and champion underrepresented storytellers has been equally exciting and this venture allows that to continue to be a key focus in this next chapter of my career.”

“There is such power in the creative talent that the principal partners bring to the table and BET Studios’ unique ability to tell Black stories at scale,” Jones said. “This joining of forces is super exciting for me in the multitude of ways that people of color see themselves represented on screen.”

“As a new venture, BET Studios offers an opportunity to expand the brand’s legacy of delivering Black stories,” Thomas said. “This is a chance to bring nuanced, layered narratives to life, partnering with a forward-thinking team, interested in surprising and engaging the audience.”

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