How the BET Awards respond to Lil Nas X, celebrates Diddy and leans ‘Into the Music’

It will be “Culture’s biggest night”. That’s what BET Networks promises when 2022 BET Awards sent live Sunday (June 26) at 20.00 EST.

And with the host Taraji P. Henson presides over a performance lineup that boasts a newly added Lil Wayne join Lizzo,, Jack Harlow,, Latto,, Muni Long,, Roddy Ricch and many others, the promise sounds more like a guarantee. And that does not even count the artists who will pay tribute to this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Sean “Diddy” Combs: Mary J. Blige,, U.S,, Busta rimer,, Faith Evans and Bryson Tilleramong other.

“This year we said, ‘Let’s really lean into the music,'” says BET CEO Scott Mills. “And it’s going to be great.”

However, the award ceremony is not without controversy. Earlier this month Lil Nas X struck out with the BET Awards after failing to receive any nominations this year despite his continued success since receiving a nod for best new artist in 2020 (Roddy Ricch ended up winning that year). “Thank you for betting awards. An excellent zero nominations again,” tweeted Lil Nas X at the time. to pretend we are invisible. “

BET responded with a statement noting the artist’s 2020 nomination and appearances on the show in 2019 and 2021, saying in part: “We love Lil Nas X …. At BET, we are passionate advocates of the wonderful diversity found in Our society.” However, that did not stop Lil Nas X. On June 24, he released a new song aimed at the network called “Late to Da Party” offers YoungBoy never broke again.

Mills spoke Billboard about Lil Nas X, how he networks brands to expand its scope through streaming service BET + and content provider BET Studios and maintaining the brand’s cultural roots under non-black ownership.

Have you spoken to Lil Nas X and has his complaint given rise to discussions about BET’s nomination process?

I have not spoken to him. But we really appreciate and respect Lil Nas X, so we were taken aback by the claim. We work really hard to be extraordinarily inclusive in everything we do in terms of awards and portrayals in our film and TV content. Despite the hard work we do, we need to understand that there may be room for improvement in some of our practices. So we look at our processes to find out any blind spots that could have contributed to any outcome. We will review that exercise because we are committed to ensuring that we are sensitive to any potential for unconscious bias.

This is the 22nd year of the award. What kind of show can viewers expect?

There are some great talents that we have already been publicized with, but you know Connie Orlando [BET executive vp of specials, music programming & music strategy] loves to have a few surprises in the back pocket … and she definitely holds something back. Also, as you can imagine, lifetime performance-honored Diddy does nothing modest. So the performance that is going to celebrate him is absolutely brilliant. As you may have noticed, this is the 22nd year of the BET Awards. And I love when people can bring a creative approach that you can still get excited about, despite having seen or been to a million awards ceremonies. Given the creative freedom that Connie and the team have developed, it is always incredibly fun to celebrate this day. In addition to broadcasting BET Awards on LOGO, MTV, VH1 and TV Land, as we did last year, the list has been expanded to include Comedy Central and Pop. There is also our international simulcast on BET Africa, BET France, My5 and Sky On-Demand in the UK, as well as BET Pluto in the UK and Brazil.

Speaking of Diddy, why is it this year to honor him?

Our responsibility is to use our show to celebrate the expertise and achievements of our community. One of the things I appreciate about Diddy is how he is constantly evolving and finding new spaces to succeed in; his extraordinary journey of transformation is truly compelling. When we honor and pay tribute to people, what we also do is say to our society that these are things that we value, things that we should manifest. He started as a music impresario and then producer, rapper and businessman. The whole arc is really a good message to deliver this year. Next year is the 50th anniversary of hip hop, so our honor and show will be rooted in that celebration.

Why not a BET Experience music and entertainment festival or a humanitarian award winner this time around?

The music and entertainment festival will definitely return next year. The reason there is not one this year is that at the time we should have made a number of long-term commitments in December and January, there was still such uncertainty about the state of the pandemic. And we would prioritize security. It was first and foremost. But we already have a team working to bring a completely over-the-top experience back in 2023. Because there were so many opportunities to present so many amazing artists and performances on this year’s show, we do not award the Humanitarian Award This time. But we will present a great pro-social philanthropic moment during the show.

In addition to the BET Awards, the network annually awards the BET Hip-Hop Awards, the Soul Train Awards and the NAACP Image Awards. Since awards across the board face lower ratings and other issues, why are prices still an important BET franchise?

Among the abundance of awards, there is nothing in the world like the BET Awards. It’s fundamentally different from anything whether it’s the Grammys, Billboard Music Awards, American Music Awards or MTV Video Music Awards. One of the most powerful lines in our culture is music. So at that crossroads, no other show is authentically African-American like the BET Awards. It’s something only we can do. We’ve been saying this for a long time: that it’s like the Black Super Bowl. And our partners are big companies like Procter and Gamble, Pepsi and McDonald’s among others. They see it as a strong opportunity to engage with our community, and the show is doing exceptionally well. It will generate more revenue in 2022 than it has ever generated in the franchise.

The success we have with other awards is due to the way we place them. In the case of the Image Awards, we thought it was crucial to create a platform that shows the world, not just our society, what black creative expertise looks like. Soul Train is an iconic, fun and engaging show made at a different price level than the BET Awards with lots of advertisers wanting to take advantage of the emotions of that particular brand demographic. And because hip-hop is such a powerful force in our culture, the Hip-Hop Awards have become an important force in our awards ceremony. In general, we love being there for all the artists, and our partners value these shows as a platform to engage with the black community. For many people, it is not just awards. It’s about the special relationship these shows represent to society.

In January 2023, you will celebrate your five-year anniversary as head of BET. What was your vision for the network when you returned in 2018 and your vision now?

It is about serving our community. When Viacom, now Paramount, asked me to take the helm, I decided to take it because I understood we had an amazing media brand, a giant footprint that allows us to play in so many spaces. But the critical key was to make strategic decisions today – based on where the industry was headed – that would keep it on track so that it could continue to thrive and prosper well into the future. So I built plans for what it would entail to build an ecosystem; understanding that while the cable industry was this hugely valuable platform, we needed to build additional platforms so we could create an ecosystem where we would share content, talent, audiences and earnings. And by doing so, we would grow and be able to bring more content, talent, audiences and earnings into this machine.

As part of that, we launched the streaming service BET + [in 2019] and the BET Studios platform [with Paramount last year]. In addition to BET and BET +, we also serve a wider range of selected third-party platforms, allowing us to be competitive in pursuing any major black talent. Writer / producer / director Kenya Barris left Netflix to join BET. We made a deal with Tyler Perry when I was CEO of Viacom around 2017 or so. At the time, he was in a partnership with Oprah Winfrey and Discovery. And people said, “You can ‘t get Tyler to leave Oprah.” Building the study platform has also allowed us to bring in others like Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union. [NOTE: on June 16, BET+ premiered Martin: The Reunion featuring the cast of the popular 30-year-old sitcom — the first in a series of such specials, says Mills.]

What is your response to no-sayers considering whether BET can retain its cultural roots since now part of Paramount and is no longer Black-owned?

In May, 50 cents had a meeting with me and my team including our study leader, head of business and legal affairs and head of unscripted content. And 50 Cent was like, “Damn, this is a beautiful room.” And I said, “Have you ever held a pitch meeting in a room like this before?” And he said, “Never.” The point is that the meeting was not constructed; we have a small fraction of non-diverse people in our management team. But BET is run and administered by black people. That’s who the network is: firmly committed to our black culture. And we would not just write checks, go toe to toe with Netflix and others. We really wanted to do something to address the issue of racism in the industry. So when we set up BET studios, we also started giving invited black creators equity on the platform.

Towards 2023, what is the biggest challenge for the media industry?

It’s going to be a very difficult time. The media industry was already going through a storm before these economic headwinds began. Through the ecosystem that we have created at BET, we are a 42-year-old media company that has achieved double-digit growth last year [BET’s total revenue rose 19% in 2021 vs. the previous year]. In such an economic environment, it is natural for people to reduce expenses, to retire and cut back. So we really need to control how we need to be fiscally disciplined to navigate this turbulent period. It does not disappear within a few months. So how do we ensure that this amazing engine we have built continues to flourish? That’s the balance.

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