Exciting Times for Black Entertainment Television

Kelly G is BET's Sr. Director Music Programming
Kelly G is BET’s Sr. Director Music Programming

Network Programming Exec Kelly G Talks Award Shows and Why Music Matters

The biggest televised event celebrating the achievements of Black music is a July event this year. The BET Awards 12 hits the airwaves Sunday, July 1, live from the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium, in what promises to be another star-studded event. Hosted by Academy Award nominated actor Samuel L. Jackson, many of today’s top recording artists from Usher, Nicki Minaj, Big Sean, Chris Brown, and D’Angelo are slated to perform. With accolades long overdue, the members of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly are to be saluted with the prestigious Cadillac Lifetime Achievement Award. The Reverend Al Sharpton will be honored with the Humanitarian Award presented by State Farm for his unwavering commitment to political activism and social reform over the last five decades.

Leading the pack of A-list talent this year is Kanye West with an impressive seven nominations: Best Collaboration, Video Director of the Year, and five notable nominations for The Throne with Jay-Z (receiving nominations for Best Group, Best Collaboration ft. Otis Redding, Coca-Cola Viewers Choice and two nods for Video of the Year for “N*ggas in Paris” and “Otis”).  Close behind is Beyoncé with six Nominations ( Best Female R&B Artist, Best Collaboration, Video Director of the Year, Coca-Cola Viewers Choice and two nods for Video of the Year for “Countdown” and “Love on Top”).

Major sponsors for this year’s televised event are Cadillac, Coca-Cola, Ford, State Farm and Subway.

Year after year, the BET Awards continue to reinvent itself. “It’s definitely a team effort led by our fearless leader, [President of Music Programming and Specials] Stephen Hill,” says Kelly G, the network’s longtime Sr. Director Music Programming. “This is what we’re passionate about, our culture and our music. The Awards show and our various programs are the end result of that passion.”

The BET platform has long been instrumental in the exposure of new and developing artists, but no platform, perhaps, is more important than their growing Music Matters concert series. Earlier this year, Estelle, Elle Varner, Luke James and Stacey Barthe performed at nearly two-dozen cities around the U.S. for the concert series. A campaign launched in 2010, previous Music Matters line-ups featured B.o.B., J. Cole, Marsha Ambrosius, Miguel, Melanie Fiona, Big Sean and Dom Kennedy.

“BET’s history and brand is engrained in music,” says Kelly G. “We feel the Music Matters campaign has made a huge impact and could be around the next 15 or 20 years. Everybody can tell you the first time they saw Maxwell, Erykah Badu or Mary J. Blige—from a national perspective—and that was on BET. Music Matters continues that tradition in identifying new, up and coming artists and giving them a platform. We did small and intimate venues earlier the year, partnering with Estelle and her manager Kevin Liles. We’re looking to kick off the next tour in the fall with Kendrick Lamar; this may be the first all Hip-Hop Music Matters branded tour.”

Speaking of Hip-Hop, fans of the network have come to expect a top-notch Awards show celebrating the Rap genre during the fall months. No rest for the weary, because post BET Awards, the programming team starts aggressively planning for its annual Hip-Hop Awards.  “It’s a great platform to concentrate on real Hip-Hop, and to pay tribute to some of the pioneers of the Hip-Hop community,” says Kelly G. “For years we partnered with the Source magazine, and decided that we could do this on our own, which is what it evolved into. Stephen Hill had a passion for creating the Hip-Hop awards and it has become such a part of the fabric of what we do.” The dates have yet to be announced for the BET Hip-Hop Awards. But the network, which has built its brand by playing near-infinite amounts of music videos, offers other programming choices during the interim months.

“There’s no question that our DNA is in music and entertainment. As our audience has evolved, we have evolved,” says Kelly G. “We have a mindset of being where our audiences are. If they are online, then we’re going to be on line. If they are on Twitter, then we’re there with them. The music is still there; how we deliver it has changed. No one sits around watching music videos for hours like we did back in the day. We’ve just found different ways to bring music to our audience like with Music Matters and what it provides online and through the live events. We’re also looking forward to introducing new programs like Don’t Sleep with TJ Holmes [Holmes is the former CNN anchor] coming in October, and the forthcoming [Kevin Hart vehicle] House Husbands. This is a very exciting time for BET!”

By David A. Mitchell