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Tyler Perry, Byron Allen look to buy BET stake, sparking possible bidding war


Producer and star Tyler Perry has expressed interest in buying a majority stake in BET as the television network’s owner, Paramount Global, looks to bring on a substantial partner, according to two people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment .

Hours after Perry’s interest in BET was revealed, LA-based media mogul Byron Allen indicated that he, too, was joining the fray.

“Byron Allen is interested in buying BET, and he will pursue the acquisition of the network,” Allen’s spokesperson said late Monday.

The dueling interest could benefit Paramount, which has been trying to raise money by divesting assets to pay down debt and investing in its two-year-old streaming service, Paramount+. Paramount wants to keep part of the BET Media Group, which includes television channel VH1 and streaming service BET +, according to one of the experts.

A marriage between Paramount and one of the suitors would unite those in power in African American culture and media.

BET established itself as the go-to cable destination for black-themed shows over 40 years ago. In recent years, Perry’s programs, including “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” have performed well on BET.

Perry, who is also a respected actor, has expressed a desire to expand his empire, which includes his popular “Madea” movie franchise, live stage plays, and a sprawling 300-acre studio complex near Atlanta.

Comedian and media mogul Byron Allen has also expressed interest in buying BET. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(Chris Carlson/AP)

Allen, a stand-up comedian who founded the prolific Entertainment Studios, has been on a bargain hunt for the past decade.

In 2018, Allen bought the Weather Channel. He has also added about two dozen television stations that broadcast network programming to his portfolio. His Allen Media Group, which he founded 30 years ago, also owns a free streaming app called Local Now, which broadcasts local news, weather, sports, traffic, movies and TV shows.

Allen also launched a high-profile legal battle against Comcast Corp. in 2015. and Charter Communications, alleging racial discrimination because pay-TV providers did not carry some of its smaller TV channels on their cable systems. The battle reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected Allen’s arguments. The various parties eventually settled their differences.

Representatives for Perry and Paramount declined to comment Monday.

Talks with Perry are in the early stages, a well-informed source said.

It was not clear Monday whether Allen and Paramount executives had initiated talks. .

The potential sale of BET was first reported by the Wall Street Journal; Hollywood trade papers were quick to report Perry’s interest.

In recent years, Paramount Global, formerly known as ViacomCBS, has looked for ways to raise capital through a number of asset sales. More than a year ago, it reached a deal to sell its television and movie lot in Studio City, CBS’s West Coast headquarters for many years, for $1.85 billion.

The New York-based company is smaller than most of its rivals and has been hit hard by declining cable TV viewership.

Paramount recognizes the unique value of BET and its 3-year-old streaming service, BET+, and is keen to retain a stake in the company, said one of the experts.

Tyler Perry Studios currently has a minority stake in the BET+ service, so any union would expand cooperation between these two parties.

Entrepreneur Robert Johnson launched BET, which stands for Black Entertainment Television, in 1980. The channel started with very few shows, including a gospel music series and a video music program with a set so flimsy that the host’s stage once collapsed. But the channel grew and prospered.

The media giant then called Viacom acquired BET in 2003 for $3 billion.

This year’s potential sale comes amid a dramatic realignment in the media industry as legacy companies struggle to make the leap into streaming and scale back their traditional focus on building linear TV channels.

Paramount has approximately 77 million subscribers to its various streaming services, including approximately 56 million subscribers to Paramount+. More than 21 million customers have signed up for smaller streaming services such as BET+ and Showtime+.

Paramount has not provided an exact figure for BET+’s customer base.

Staff writer Greg Braxton contributed to this report.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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