BET cages ‘Black Panther’

Marvel Comic hero heads to TV

Marvel Comics has signed a deal to turn one of its superheroes, the Black Panther, into a primetime animated series for BET, starting early next year.

BET made the announcement at its upfront presentation in New York as the highlight of a batch of new series being readied for the 2008-09 season, under the supervision of Reginald Hudlin, president of entertainment for BET.

In addition to “The Black Panther,” BET singled out “Brutha,” a docu-reality series featuring producer Jermaine Dupri and focusing on five brothers in a singing group “who learn just what it takes to navigate the treacherous terrain of the music industry.”

BET has also given a go to its first court show, “Judge Karen,” and a dating show called “The Boot, narrated by MC Lyte, each half-hour of which starts with six young singles and narrows the field down to the final twosome.

“Brutha,” “Karen” and “Boot” will premiere in the fourth quarter. The network’s longrunning music-countdown show “106 & Park” has engineered a spinoff called “106 & Gospel,” a 90-minute weekly show that will feature the top 20 gospel videos. The air date of “106 & Gospel’ is early next year.

The two most popular reality shows in cable TV among black households, “College Hill” and “Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is,” will each return to BET’s schedule in 2009.

Other returning shows include the biographical reality series “American Gangster,” the soap opera “Baldwin Hills,” the boardroom-reality show “Interns” and the gospel-music show “Sunday Best.”

And the “BET Awards,” perennially the highest-rated show each year on the network, will be back for another year.

At the upfront, Scott Mills, president and chief operating officer of BET Networks, talked about the beginning of the network’s “international expansion with our recent launch of BET in the United Kingdom.” Mills also singled out BET’s “intergrated marketing” across a number of platforms and its “new digital efforts” including BET.com, its mobile initiatives and its video on demand.