Byron Allen explains why he’s pursuing BET and Black-targeted business
At his recent Oscar gala, the media mogul said owning Black media companies comes with a responsibility to the communities they represent.
It’s no secret that Byron Allen is a king of acquisitions. As the first Black American to own The Weather Channel, Allen has built a media empire that includes 36 broadcast television stations, 10 (24-hour HD) television networks as well as brands like TheGrio, HBCUGo and Local Now.
But when news hit that Paramount Global was considering a sale of BET, Allen stepped up to express his interest in purchasing a majority stake in the brand.
“BET is a great American brand and if it becomes available, we’re very interested and we will pursue it vigorously,” the business mogul told theGrio’s Christina Faith during an exclusive red carpet interview at the annual Byron Allen’s Oscar Gala on Sunday. “It’s a big opportunity.”
Allen isn’t the only Black businessman with an interest in buying a majority stake in BET. Both Tyler Perry and Diddy are eyeing the entity. Perry owns a minority stake in BET, according to Variety, and Diddy is the owner of REVOLT TV Network.
The brainchild of Black entrepreneur Bob Johnson, BET launched in 1980 and officially became an independent cable channel in 1983, holding an outsized influence in the cultural landscape ever since.
In 2001, Johnson sold the company to Viacom for $3 billion, which resulted in BET losing its status as a Black-owned business. A sale to Allen would change that.
“As African-Americans, we are very much underrepresented,” Allen said. “So I think it’s important we lean in; we control our platforms — we own them, that way we control the narrative. We control how we’re produced, how we’re depicted and how we’re seen around the world.”
It was legendary “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius who pulled Allen aside and told him he was excellent “because this world and this country has a way of not saying that to Black people, but saying the opposite.”
Allen recalls, “It didn’t resonate with me when he said it to me at the time. Over the years, I saw it happen to others that were excellent and they weren’t getting the respect they should have gotten. So I really just wanted to have a space where [it’s clear] — ‘No, no, you’re excellent. I see you. I appreciate you’.”
Allen, recently launched theGrio Awards, an uplifting and family-friendly celebration of Black changemakers, which aired on CBS last fall. He says the show and his larger ownership endeavors are intentionally about pursuing opportunities that enhance his business and create positive portrayals of Black communities.
“I’m on a mission to build the world’s biggest media company. That puts us in a position to effectuate change for the greater good and to amplify the excellence that’s in our community.”
Watch the interview above and subscribe to theGrio’s YouTube channel for the full conversation.
Natasha S. Alford is VP of Digital Content and a Senior Correspondent at theGrio. An award-winning journalist, filmmaker, and TV personality, Alford is author of the forthcoming book “American Negra.” (Harper Collins) Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @natashasalford.
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