By Christopher Palmeri and Brett Pulley
Paramount Global is considering selling a majority stake in its BET Media Group, the unit that runs the cable TV channels Black Entertainment Television and VH1, along with a number of related businesses, according to people familiar with the matter.
The deliberations are preliminary and may not result in any sale, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Paramount could maintain commercial relationships with a new owner, such as negotiating distribution fees with cable-TV operators, while opening the business up to other investors, including people of color.
Actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry, who is an investor in the company’s BET+ streaming service, has had discussions about buying a stake in the larger enterprise, one of the people said. Byron Allen, whose Allen Media Group owns the Weather Channel and other properties, is also interested, according to a spokesman.
Paramount has been trying to consolidate and refocus its movie and TV offerings around its Paramount+ streaming service, and reduce debt as management copes with a decline in traditional TV viewing. As part of that effort, the New York-based media giant has sold office buildings and studio space, and is trying to sell its Simon & Schuster book publishing house.
Paramount, which is controlled by the Redstone family, was formed in 2019 through the merger of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. Its businesses include the CBS TV network, Nickelodeon, MTV and Paramount Pictures.
BET, founded by African American businessman Robert L. Johnson, was sold to Viacom in 2001 for total consideration of about $3 billion. The company maintains strong relations with some of the most successful Black entertainment creators. Actors and producers, including Kenya Barris and Rashida Jones, are investors in BET Studios, a production company.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the possible sale earlier Monday.
Shares of Paramount fell 2.4% to $22.04 at the close in New York. They have gained 31% this year.
(Updates with Byron Allen in third paragraph.)
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