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BET sets up studio arm targeting black creators under Aisha Summers-Burke

ViacomCBS-owned broadcaster BET in the US is launching a studio division that it says will give black creators more equity ownership in the TV and film projects they create.

Aisha Summers-Burke

BET Studios will leverage both BET and ViacomCBS’s infrastructure and financing to develop and produce projects for networks within the ViacomCBS fold, including Paramount+, Showtime, CBS, Nickelodeon, BET and streamer BET+. The new studio label will also produce content for third-party platforms.

Aisha Summers-Burke has been appointed as general manager and executive VP of the new venture, reporting to BET president Scott Mills. As head of the studio, Summers-Burke will be tasked with overseeing day-to-day creative affairs, collaborating with creative partners and driving BET Studios’ content slate.

Principal partners in the venture are writer, producer and director Kenya Barris, creator of the Netflix comedy #BlackAF and ABC’s Black-ish; actress, writer and director Rashida Jones, whose executive producer credits include Hot Girls Wanted and the follow-up series Turned On; and film and television screenwriter Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, who is the co-creator and co-showrunner of the rebooted procedural series SWAT and previously worked on NBC’s Friday Night Lights.

“With the launch of BET Studios, we are excited to introduce a new model that opens the aperture to a broad array of platforms and supports the full range of content from Black creators. This entrepreneurial environment offers creatives the opportunity to produce diverse high-end content reflecting all aspects of entertainment,” said Summers-Burke, who spent 13 years at Warner Bros Television, most recently as VP of Warner Horizon, before it was combined with Warner Bros Television last year.

“The demand for premium content from black creators has accelerated dramatically as a result of both the rapidly changing media and social landscapes. BET, with our 40-year legacy of celebrating black culture and the full power of the ViacomCBS ecosystem, is uniquely positioned to service this demand,” said Mills in a statement.

Barris added: “The investment being made by Scott, David Nevins, Bob Bakish and the ViacomCBS team into BET Studios is not only an investment in black storytelling, it is also an investment in the culture. And while individual success is great, being able to amplify and champion underrepresented storytellers has been equally exciting and this venture allows that to continue to be a key focus in this next chapter of my career.”

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