BET J, VH1 Soul To Join Forces For New Centric Network

Viacom's VH1 Soul and BET J Networks are combining channel resources to create a new program outlet called Centric. Set to launch in October, the new network will take aim at Comcast/Radio One-owned TV One in targeting the 25-to 54-year-old African-American audience, while reaching out to other multicultural viewers.

BET J originally launched as BET on Jazz and features reality series and music-programs. Both BET J and VH1 Soul will continue as stand alone channels in addition to Centric's programming; Centric will start with BET J's distribution and annex channel slots allocated to VH1 Soul or possibly some other small MTVN service, rather than merge.

At last night's (April 23) BET Upfront announcement in New York, BETN officials say Centric will launch with 45 million subscribers. BET Networks will handle its operations, with BET J executive vice president and general manager Paxton Baker overseeing the new venture backed by staff from both BET J and VH1 Soul.

"What we're creating is a brand-new network targeted to adult, upscale, sophisticated and aspirational African-American and multicultural audiences," said BETN president and COO Scott Mills. "We think we have a unique way of serving that demo that no one else can in the space," added Baker.

Centric will initially feature some original entertainment and reality shows, like "Model City," a reality show revolving around African-American models in New York City and "Keeping Up With The Joneses," which follows the exploits of a Houston-based family of entrepreneurs. R&B singer Monica will be starring in her own reality show entitled "Monica: Still Standing," set to air in October, and comedian/actress Mo'Nique will have her own nightly talk/variety show.News and public affairs programming are said to be added in the near future.

The network will also reinstate the "Soul Train Music Awards," as well as demo-targeted content - including movies and music programming from MTV, VH1, BET and other MTV Networks outlets.