BET Networks, the country’s largest cable network for African American audiences, is moving its headquarters from Washington to New York, ending a nearly 40-year relationship with its home town.
The move — part of a years-long transition into the Manhattan offices of its parent company, Viacom — comes as major cable networks struggle to stay relevant. ESPN earlier this year announced widespread layoffs to make up for millions of lost subscribers, and many others have been facing similar battles as customers cancel their cable in favor of streaming video services such as Hulu and Netflix.
BET’s Washington office, which has about 40 full-time employees and 36 freelancers, will close July 7.
“This closure is in line with our overall strategy to make New York BET’s new headquarters,” Debra L. Lee, the network’s chief executive, wrote in a memo to staffers on Tuesday.
BET, once a prized, black-owned cable network, has in recent years struggled to hold its own against smaller outfits such as TV One and Bounce TV. The network’s gospel show, “Joyful Noise,” which is taped in Washington, was among its lowest performers, with a reported viewership of 13,000. (There have, however, been a few bright spots: The recent premiere of the miniseries “The New Edition Story,” for example, attracted 4.2 million viewers, marking a five-year high for the network.)
Viacom, which acquired BET for $3 billion in 2000, has said it plans to build BET into one of its flagship channels, alongside MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. (Washington Post)