Ahead of its upfronts presentation, BET has announced it is doubling down on its scripted programming.
In an in-depth interview with The Hollywood Reporter, new network president Scott Mills revealed that the network has three straight-to-series orders: a half-hour comedic reboot of 1992 Eddie Murphy feature Boomerang; comedy Peachtree Place, produced by Will Packer (10 ep; and a drama, American Soul, inspired by the life of Soul Train mastermind Don Cornelius.
“The shows that have been most successful on BET are all scripted: The Game, The New Edition Story, Being Mary Jane, Real Husbands of Hollywood. When you succeed in that space, it has a wonderful effect on the brand,” Mills tells The Hollywood Reporter as part of an exclusive interview ahead of BET’s upfront announcements.
Mills says the goal is to increase original programming by 21 percent. In the interview, Mills also revealed Will Packer will produce “three movies of the week for BET,” set to all air on 2019 and that he would be producing Tracy Oliver’s First Wives Club reboot at Paramount Network.
Here are the official descriptions:
“A writer and producing team on Boomerang have not yet been determined. The 10-episode, half-hour comedy hails from corporate sibling Paramount Television. Like the original, it revolves around a successful executive who finds that his lifestyle choices have turned back on him when his new boss turns out to be a bigger deviant that he is. It’s described as an updated version that explores contemporary workplace dynamics, including the changing role of gender, office politics, relationships and the conflicts between Generation X and millennials.
American Soul is inspired by the personal trials and professional successes of a young, ambitious and troubled impresario, Don Cornelius. The 10-episode drama is an unflinching look at the entrepreneur, his Soul Train dancers, crew and musicians in a cutthroat Hollywood in the 1970s and how they work, play, rise and fall against the backdrop of the show most responsible for the way African-American culture was perceived by the world. Jesse Collins, Jonathan Prince and Devon Greggory executive produce. Don’s son, Tony Cornelius, will co-exec produce alongside Andy Horne. Greggory will pen the pilot and Jesse Collins Entertainment will produce.
Packer’s 10-episode comedy Peachtree Place follows five 30-somethings living in Atlanta as they try to build professional and personal lives they can be proud of, but the one thing they don’t have keeps impeding their progress: love. Unresolved feelings from college are uncovered and secrets revealed, forcing these friends to finally deal with uncomfortable truths about each other. Packer exec produces; Felischa Marye will pen the series and co-exec produce; Will Packer Media’s Sheila Ducksworth will also serve as a co-EP.”
The insightful, full feature with Mills covers a lot.
On Tyler Perry‘s Viacom (parent of BET) deal: “Tyler can only begin creating content for BET in late 2019, that’s the only reason that’s the case. His deal with OWN isn’t up yet. When I was at Viacom corporate, I helped work on his deal. We started talking to Tyler about a deal back when I was chief operating officer here in like 2007. We love the idea of working with him across a multitude of platforms, whether it’s linear television, film, digital and OTT.
On this competitive era of content creating: “African Americans are the primary driver of the cable ecosystem from a viewership perspective. African Americans consume and watch significantly more TV than the general population and African Americans are leaving cable at a much slower rate than other populations. Most people have figured that out and more people are investing in African-American content. Kenya Barris is trying to get out of his overall deal and it’s illustrative that Netflix is trying to poach him. That would give them two mega-deals with African-American creative executives (including Shonda Rhimes).
I’ve been here three months and the first thing I did was partner with the head of programming here, Connie Orlando, to go out and sit down with all the creative executives with whom we do work, with whom we have worked and with whom we’d like to work to share our updated creative filter and programming strategy to get a sense of how people would like to work with us and what their perspectives are. We had breakfast with Kenya, Will Packer, Martin Lawrence, Justin Simien and they all say BET is home and they all want to have a show on BET. It’s empowering that, yes, people want to get their shows on HBO and Netflix, but they very much want to have a project with BET. It was a consistent refrain and as a result we’re doing business with a lot of really great people.
So the biggest challenge is that there are a lot of people really aggressively serving our audience and that means we have to be an extraordinary partner to the creative executives who are best at creating content for our audience. And that means we have to engage and support the creative community and we have to be respectful of the fact that they do have options. And we are respectful of the fact that they consider BET home and they want to do projects here. We have to make it compelling, easy and fun for them to do projects with BET.