Power, according to Debra Lee, "means being able to set your own destiny. And, in my instance, it means being able to navigate BET, Centric and our other platforms in the direction that's appropriate and most beneficial to our audience." Marking her seventh year at the helm, Lee and her navigational skills are in top form. BET, a Viacom subsidiary reaching 90 million-plus households, posted its highest ratings year ever in 2011, retaining its status as the No. 1 cable network targeting African-Americans. Propelling BET's ratings and audience growth for the third straight year, per Nielsen, was a varied lineup. Chief among those offerings: the annual BET Awards, which trumped 2010's broadcast with an average viewership of 7.7 million in 2011; flagship show "106 & Park," the only video music countdown still standing strong after 10 years and the No. 1 music variety show on cable for the past 18 consecutive quarters among the coveted 18-49 demo; and an expansion into scripted shows. The latter was led by No. 1-ranked "The Game," a sitcom about pro football players' relationships with women that lasted three seasons on the CW network. When BET relaunched "The Game" last January, the first two episodes averaged 7.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched sitcom ever on cable TV. Also on tap is a new series with actor/artist Jamie Foxx as executive producer. Other feathers in BET's 2011 programming cap included gospel competition series "Sunday Best" and Centric, the 25-to-54-targeted 24-hour music/entertainment channel that netted a year-over-year viewership gain of 11%. Washington, D.C.-based Lee divides her time among BET offices there and in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, overseeing a diverse group of branded businesses that include BET.com, BET Digital Networks, BET Event Productions, BET Mobile, BET Home Entertainment and BET International. Ranked No. 7 on Billboard's Women in Music 2011 survey, Lee says, "Our brand strategy is to empower our audience; to reflect and elevate them. To still be growing at this stage in our development, 31 years, and achieving our biggest year last year in terms of ratings . . . that's an incredible feeling of power."
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