BET pumps original series, movies

Cabler sets T.J. Holmes to host latenight strip

BET Networks on Thursday unveiled a slew of original programming for the BET and Centric cablers, including a laffer toplined by younger members of the Wayans clan and a semi-scripted reality parody “House Husbands” starring Kevin Hart.

Also tubthumped at Viacom cabler’s upfront presentation for the 2012-13 season at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills was a latenight “Daily Show”-esque program, “Don’t Sleep with T.J. Holmes,” and BET’s move into original telepics.

The theme of the afternoon showcase was imagination, with the tagline, “It’s not your imagination. It’s BET Networks.” BET chief exec Debra Lee and Louis Carr, prexy of media sales, made the case to ad buyers that black adults are rabid consumers of movies, TV and digital media, and BET as the best outlet to reach that audience.

BET has been a top 20 ad-supported cable network among adults 18-49 for three consecutive years, according to the presentation. Lee pointed to this evidence of the network being more than a niche play.

“I’d like you to imagine us differently,” Lee asked.

BET’s increased investment in original programming comes at it faces a growing number of competitors targeting African-American auds, including cabler TV One and digital broadcast net Bounce.

The scripted comedy “Second Generation Wayans” will star Craig Wayans, Damien Dante Wayans and George O. Gore II. Marlon Wayans, uncle of the two stars, will exec produce along with Devon Shepard and Rick Alvarez.

“You get a little insight into our world and what it’s like in the shadows” of older showbizzers in the family, Damien said during the presentation, presided over Lee, Stephen Hill, prez of music programming and specials and Loretha Jones, prexy of original programming.

“House Husbands” is based on a 2011 BET Awards sketch which featured Kevin Hart, Nelly, Bobby Brown, Anthony Anderson and Nick Cannon as bickering Hollywood men of the house.

Holmes, a former CNN anchor, will tackle current issues on his Monday-Friday latenight program with the aid of correspondents.

“We’re going to find that perfect blend of smarts, of sharp wit and hilarity to deal with the seriousness and also the silliness of what we see going on in the world today,” Holmes said.

The execs also unveiled plans for the “BET Premiere Cinema” longform showcase, which will bow with “Being Mary Jane,” produced by Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, the pair behind the cabler’s popular sitcom “The Game.” “Mary Jane,” starring Gabrielle Union as a successful single TV news anchor, will also be developed as an hourlong series.

Among the other new and return shows touted at the presentation was “The Mathis Project,” featuring former syndie courtshow judge Greg Mathis investigating unsolved homicides.

BET sibling cabler Centric announced “Apollo Live,” a rebooted amateur competition show hosted by Tony Rock and exec produced by Jamie Foxx, Marcus King and Don Weiner.

In addition to the new programming, the network announced plans to amplify its annual BET Awards ceremony next year. The BET Awards Experience 2013 will be a three-day takeover of the L.A. Live complex for panels, live tapings, music, comedy and other festivities. Lee presented this as a key opportunity for advertisers to expose their brands.

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