BET places ‘Net presence

Site caters to African-American auds, will not mirror cabler

NEW YORK — Black Entertainment Television parent BET Holdings hit the ‘Net Monday with the launch of BET.com, an affinity Web portal catering to African-American audiences.

The site is a joint venture of BET Holdings, Microsoft, Liberty Digital, News Corp. and USA Networks — the latter four of which had collectively invested $35 million as of August.

While BET.com will draw on some of the BET network’s content, including occasional live “synergistic cybercasts” of the channel’s schedule, execs say it will not parallel the network.

In addition to entertainment, the site will stream general news and features on health, financial and professional issues — all designed to fill a need for “mainstream” Web content directed specifically at black audiences, according to execs.

Support resource

Company says it has slotted $8 million for P&A and will consider the $2 billion BET network a support resource for the site.

BET.com’s chief operating officer will be Scott Mills. Senior exec staff also includes Craig Maccubbin as chief technology officer; Kathryn Engebretson as chief financial officer; Marc Martin as VP, general counsel, and secretary; and Retha Hill as VP of content development, focused on the integration of programming from the BET network.

Also, Michael Pickrum (formerly of Mercer Management Consulting) will serve as VP of business development, to be responsible for BET.com’s partnership opportunities. Stacie Turner (formerly of Sprint) has been tapped VP of marketing charged with designing the site’s overall look and developing marketing strategies.

The staff, to be based in Washington, D.C., will move into its 13,000 square-foot headquarters by the end of February.

(Suzanne Ault in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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