Viacom Acquires BET

In a separate telephone news conference, Johnson said BET can benefit from its association with Viacom in numerous ways:

BET can get help from CBS in expanding its news operations.

Viacom’s experience with making MTV a global brand can help BET gain global distribution for its music channel BET on Jazz.

Viacom’s UPN network shows aimed at blacks may play well on Black Entertainment Television as well.

Asked if he thought BET would suffer a backlash from advertisers or viewers for selling to Viacom, Johnson said he doubted it and that the deal would help BET “better serve the black community.”

He said it was part of the “natural progression” for strong black-owned businesses to align themselves with major media companies.

Johnson recently agreed to start DC Air, a regional airline in Washington with assets being shed by UAL Corp. and US Airways Group to secure regulatory approval of their plan to merge. He said Friday the BET sale would have “almost no bearing on the financing” of the airline deal and said he would find someone experienced in the airline business to run it.

Johnson and Liberty Media Corp., which owns 35 percent of BET and is run by cable TV mogul John Malone, are retaining ownership of some BET assets not included in the sale to Viacom. They include three restaurants in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas and a dance club at Disney World in Florida and a stake in several magazines.

Lee said decisions have not yet been made on what to do with those assets.

In addition to CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon and UPN, Viacom owns the Showtime pay-TV service, the studio Paramount Pictures, radio station and billboard owner Infinity Broadcasting and publisher Simon & Schuster.

On the New York Stock Exchange, Class B shares of Viacom were off 62.5 cents to close at $57.88.

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