Debra Lee: The 2014 Billboard Power 100
NO. 92

Debra Lee

Chairman/CEO, BET Networks

After close to a decade as CEO, Lee 
leveraged BET’s music power to 
launch a three-day festival

To maintain BET’s status as a top 20 cable network and No. 1 network across all key demos for African-Americans, Debra Lee upped the ante in 2013 with the inaugural BET Experience. The three-day music and lifestyle festival, presented in association with AEG, drew 75,000 to Los Angeles last June and culminated with the 13th annual BET Awards, which logged a four-year ratings high of 7.6 million, making it the No. 1 awards show among its 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen.

Music remains a strong driver for BET. The BET Hip Hop Awards in the fall drew nearly 9 million viewers, and was the No. 1 social TV program on cable during its Oct. 15 airing, with more than 2.5 million tweets using the hashtag #HipHopAwards. And “Black Girls Rock!”—the network’s annual female-empowerment special, featuring salutes to Queen Latifah and Patti LaBelle—racked up its best ratings, with close to 3 million viewers. BET’s other music programming includes the Soul Train Awards; its new artist marketing campaign, “Music Matters”; and countdown stalwart “106 & Park.”

With BET since 1986 in various executive posts before being appointed CEO in 2005, Lee says music remains an important part of what BET does every day. “BET Networks continues to be the place where viewers turn to find what’s hot, what’s next and what matters.”