Chris Rock

Chris Rock visits 106 & Park at BET studio on May 14, 2014 in New York City.

Bennett Raglin/BET/Getty Images for BET

Network’s second annual BET Experience at L.A. Live fan fest posts 10 percent attendee boost.

According to figures released by BET Networks, its annual BET Awards drew 7.9 million total viewers, up from 2013’s 7.6 million. Propelling viewership of BET Awards 14 with first-time host Chris Rock were performances and appearances by Pharrell Williams, Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, August Alsina and lifetime achievement award honoree Lionel Richie.
 
BET’s second annual BET Experience at L.A. Live (June 27-29) presented by Coca-Cola attracted 112, 488 attendees, a 10 percent increase over last year’s inaugural effort. Delivering on their promise to expand the fan fest’s free attractions, BET and partner/L.A. Live developer and operator AEG Live treated attendees to an overwhelming menu of interactive events. These ranged from such returning components as “106 & Park” live tapings presented by Target and the Sprite-sponsored, live-streamed celebrity basketball game (including Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber). New to the Experience fold: a gospel choir showcase hosted by Hezekiah Walker and SneakerCon, a traveling event for sneaker connoisseurs to buy, sell and trade popular collectibles.

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Staged outside last year, most of the fan fest events took place inside the neighboring Los Angeles Convention Center — a welcome respite from the heat. Among the more popular attractions was the Music Matters new talent showcase sponsored by Nissan. Featured artists included Mack Wilds, Sevyn Streeter, LeCrae and Elle Varner. In fact, music was a key Experience component. Television and radio personality Big Tigger hosted Acoustically Speaking, a series of performances and interviews with artists Stacy Barthe, Talib Kweli and others. The Centric Certified stage welcomed newcomer Sebastian Mikael plus Jagged Edge, Eric Benét, Calvin Richardson and Liv Warfield. And hot producer DJ Mustard hosted a kickoff BET Experience concert on Saturday featuring artists Nipsey Hussle and Tinashe.
 
One of the more riveting (and should have been mandatory) offerings was Genius Talks, illuminating Q&A’s between tastemakers from TV, film, books, music and sports. Hosted by rapper MC Lyte on Saturday and “Access Hollywood” anchor Shaun Robinson on Sunday, the match-ups — presented by RushCard — included: Bill Withers interviewed by actor Hill Harper, L.A. Clippers point guard Chris Paul and Snoop Dogg interviewed by ESPN’s Jemele Hill, “Think Like a Man Too” producer Will Packer interviewed by actor Boris Kodjoe  and Mike Tyson interviewed by Common.
 
Rounding out the fan fest were lifestyle and wellness seminars, a dance competition with MC Hammer as a judge, a BET Awards exhibit and youth educational program at the Grammy Museum and an indie film festival at the Regal Theatre that culminated with a showing of Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
 
Anchoring each evening were concerts at L.A. Live’s Staples Center, complemented by late-night shows at sister venue Club Nokia. The Billboard BoxScore attendance and gross dollars from each of the Staples shows are as follows: Maxwell and Jill Scott (June 27; attendance 12,167, gross $794,724); OutKast/A$AP Rocky/Rick Ross (June 28; 12,590, $830,324) and Mary J. Blige/Trey Songz/Jennifer Hudson (June 29; 11,918, $657,158).