Skip to comments.BET passes on televising Coretta Scott King's funeral
Posted on 02/08/2006 7:15:51 AM PST by wjersey
Coretta Scott King or Kanye West?
BET went West.
In a shocker, Black Entertainment Television took a pass on live coverage of the King funeral yesterday, going instead with its usual lineup of music-video shows from noon to 3 p.m.
"Was it an easy call? Absolutely not," says Michael Lewellen, BET's senior vice president for corporate communications. "We weighed a number of different options. In the end, we chose to offer a different kind of experience for BET viewers."
BET streamed live coverage on its Web site. On TV, it ran taped, 60-second cut-ins from the funeral by BET senior correspondent Andre Showell. A 30-minute taped tribute was shown last night.
TV One and the Black Family Channel, both African American-oriented cable networks, carried the live pool feed yesterday.
TV One, based in Silver Spring, Md., reaches 25 million homes. BFC, out of Atlanta, 16 million. And Washington's BET - 80 million.
Do the math.
BET received about "two dozen" phone calls and "a handful" of e-mails from viewers yesterday, Lewellen says. That's slightly above BET's average, he adds.
The network's decision was based on its desire not to replicate live coverage of the first lady of civil rights' funeral being carried on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel, Lewellen says.
"If BET erred, we erred on the side of giving viewers a different choice... . We wanted people to have access to this wherever they were - at work, at home, traveling, at school. The online experience would give them that."
BET wasn't unique in that venue, however.
ABC, CBS and NBC all streamed live coverage on their Web sites. So did MSNBC. CNN had it on the subscriber-only Pipeline. (A one-day pass costs 99 cents.) Fox didn't return e-mails seeking comment.
Ratings had no influence on BET's decision, Lewellen says.
The 20-year-old network, owned by media giant Viacom, averages 321,000 viewers from noon to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays thus far in '06. In prime time, the number is north of 500,000, Lewellen says.
King's funeral was an A-list event, with four U.S. presidents in attendance - George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter.
For MSNBC, going live with coverage was practically a slam dunk, says Mark Effron, vice president of daytime and live news programming.
King "was an eyewitness to history and someone who made history. She was a seminal figure in the history of the civil rights movement. We went forward [with live coverage] from the very beginning."
Had BET wanted live video, it would have had easy access through CBS Newspath, the network's 24/7 affiliate news service. CBS is also a Viacom property.
BET's news division currently has 15 staffers, including freelancers, Lewellen says. The network has no stand-alone newscast. BET Nightly News, anchored by Jacque Reid and coproduced by CBS, had its last showing July 29.
The division produces news briefs and issues-driven specials. Meet the Faith, an hour-long Sunday roundtable with religious leaders discussing issues, is scheduled to launch next month.
While acknowledging that BET "has not satisfied what every viewer would want" in regard to King's funeral, the network provided "an informative, enriching experience," Lewellen says.
The experience won't hurt BET's image, he insists.
"This is the same network that preempted more than three hours in prime time in September and raised more than $12 million for Hurricane Katrina victims. We use BET's brand and strength to reach our viewers in different ways."
Translation ... "We can't make any money from commercials showing funeral services."
Good for BET. They can show what ever they want.
Their average daily audience, I suspect...
Viacom (same parent corp as MTV and SeeBS).
If they had known the Bush-bashing was going to take place, they would have advertised the funeral and looped it well into the night.
At least someone didn't broadcast that circus.
Not one word about a hefty fee being charged by the King family. I don't know if that is fact but it most definitely is their SOP.
Folks forget there was an active Civil Rights movement before John Kennedy became President.
Maybe BET can do a program highlighting President Eisenhower's contributions, in the face of strong political opposition, toward ensuring Civil Rights.
Maybe Carter finds it necessary to pat himself on the back, because he really didn't accomplish much.
If BET had known there would be such delicious Bush bashing they might have erred in a different direction!!!!!
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