Paramount Global is exploring a sale of its majority stake in BET Media Group as part of an effort to generate cash to strengthen its flagship Paramount+ streaming service.
A source familiar with the matter emphasized to TheWrap that there is no guarantee the move will end in a transaction.
While the move is still in the early stages, and the source said Paramount has not entered negotiations on a sale, the studio does expect substantial interest among Black high net-worth individuals and minority-owned institutions as potential buyers given BET’s status as a brand and business within the Black community. If a deal does end up happening, the source said that Paramount would expect to maintain a minority stake as well as a commercial relationship in the business.
At least two potential suitors quickly surfaced Monday in Tyler Perry and Byron Allen. A separate source told TheWrap that Perry has entered talks to buy the controlling stake in BET. A spokesperson for Allen indicated he, too, would make a bid for the network.
“Byron Allen is interested in buying BET, and he will be pursuing the acquisition of the network,” the spokesperson told TheWrap in a statement.
BET was launched in 1980 by founder Robert Johnson as a channel specifically catered to African American audiences. Paramount acquired BET in 2000 for $2.3 billion. In addition to BET linear channels and VH1, BET Media Group oversees BET+, a joint venture with Perry, and BET Studios, a joint venture with Kenya Barris and Rashida Jones.
A spokesperson for Paramount declined to comment.
As of its latest quarter, Paramount+ had nearly 56 million subscribers, while about 21 million subscribers make up the rest of its DTC subscriber base, including Showtime and BET+. Paramount does not break out its figures for Showtime and BET+.
Chief financial officer Naveen Chopra told analysts during the company’s latest earnings call that Paramount+’s integration of Showtime will officially launch in the third quarter. As part of the move, the company is raising its prices for Paramount+ subscriptions. The top tier of Paramount+ will rise to $11.99 per month from $9.99 per month. The cheaper, ad-supported Essentials tier, which will not include Showtime, will increase to $5.99 from $4.99 per month. Consumers who already pay for the Paramount+/Showtime bundle will not be affected by this price increase.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the BET Media Group discussions.