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corporate communications, plays down any notion of competition. “There is not a war of any sort between BET and the people at Comcast and Radio One, although a lot of people in the media have tried to create one. The notion of competing for African American viewers is one that we’ve had to deal with for a long time.” Lewellen also called reports that BET had killed all of its news programming “utter misinformation,” noting that the network’s flagship news program, BET Nightly News, was still in production. Though the other news and public affairs programming was axed, Lewellen said that was part of a new strategy that shifts the emphasis to news analysis fare in favor of more analytical news specials like the exclusive Trent Lott interview conducted by Ed Gordon last December. Such news specials, will become a regular part of BET’s programming and will be dictated by news events.
Radio One and Comcast announced their deal in early January after Liggins spent four years seeking a deal that would allow Radio One to jump into the cable television business. “The entire process was long and frustrating,” Liggins says.
At the same time, Comcast is also in talks with hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons about launching a hip-hop cable network, another venture that would give the cable system owner deeper penetration into African American households.
Greg Coules, a media equities analyst formerly with Morgan Stanley in New York, says the programming gap at BET opens a huge opportunity for the Radio One-Comcast network. “There’s a ton of demand for it,” Coules says. “African Americans are becoming more and more affluent, all of the things that advertisers like to see, and there’s a huge demand for African American-based fare from non-African Americans. It’s a huge opportunity, one that Radio One would understand.”
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