Under orders from new network president Scott Mills, the Viacom-owned cable network has handed out straight-to-series orders for a half-hour comedic reboot of 1992 Eddie Murphy feature Boomerang; comedy Peachtree Place, produced by Girls Trip’s Will Packer; and a drama, American Soul, inspired by the life of Soul Train mastermind Don Cornelius.
All three pickups are part of a push to lean into what Mills says BET viewers want most: premium scripted content. It’s the first programming mandate to come from Mills, who in December was tapped to take over for Debra Lee (with the latter remaining chairman and CEO of the Viacom-owned cable network). Mills inherited the role after serving as Viacom’s executive vp and chief administrative officer, overseeing human resources, real estate, facilities and security. He previously worked for BET Networks, serving as president and COO, where he led business operations.
“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.
The goal, Mills says, is to increase original programming by 21 percent, including nine original movies and new scripted series as he looks to leverage relationships with prominent African-American writers and producers and Viacom’s corporate siblings. The scripted push arrives as BET is also bringing back its signature awards shows, including the BET Awards, Soul Train Awards, Black Girls Rock and Hip-Hop Awards.