Paramount considers BET Media majority stake sale



Shari Redstone, chairwoman of ViacomCBS and president of National Amusements, and Bob Bakish, President and CEO of ViacomCBS, celebrate their company’s merger at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, December 5, 2019.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Paramount Global is considering selling a majority stake of BET Media Group, the owner of the BET cable network and studio, VH1, and the streaming service BET+, according to people familiar with the matter.

Paramount executives believe BET may be particularly valued by a consortium of wealthy Black individuals and institutions, which could unlock value for the media asset in ways that are more difficult under its current corporate ownership, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Total 2022 revenue for BET Media Group was about $1.5 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Talks are in early stages and no deal is assured, said the people. A Paramount spokesperson declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the talks.

Sale talks for BET Group are not suggestive of a broader strategy to begin selling off pieces of Paramount, said the people. Paramount Global recently rejected a $3 billion deal for its premium cable network Showtime, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

While other assets at Paramount Global are closely intertwined with its flagship streaming service Paramount+, BET has its own streaming service, its own ad sales team, and an investment from actor and producer Tyler Perry. That makes a majority stake sale cleaner than a potential sale of other assets at Paramount, one of the people said.

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Selling a majority stake in BET Group would allow Paramount Global to get added capital to spend on programming for Paramount+ and Pluto TV, its free ad-supported streaming service. Paramount Global said its streaming business lost $575 million last quarter.

Paramount+, which had nearly 56 million subscribers as of Dec. 31, recently announced it would combine with Showtime later this year. When the streaming services merger happens, Paramount+’s subscription prices for its various tiers will increase, the company recently said.

The Showtime premium cable-TV network will also begin airing Paramount+ content and be rebranded as Showtime with Paramount+.

Paramount Global wants to maintain a minority stake in BET Media Group so it can continue to have a commercial relationship with the company, including potentially airing some of its programming on Paramount+, the people said. Paramount moved VH1 into BET Media Group in October. The cable network would be included in a sale, the people said.

BET Media Group is run by BET CEO Scott Mills.

Paramount+ added 9.9 million customers in the fourth quarter. The company has said that quarterly increases in subscriber numbers can be attributed to content from its broadcast CBS network, particularly NFL games, cable-TV channels, films such as “Top Gun: Maverick,” and original programming related to hit franchises like “Yellowstone” and “Criminal Minds.”

–CNBC’s Lillian Rizzo contributed to this article.

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