ViacomCBS Wednesday announced the launch of BET Studios led by Aisha Summers-Burke with partners including Kenya Barris, Rashida Jones and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas. The studio venture provides equity ownership to Black creators across premium TV and film content.
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Propelled by the infrastructure and financing of BET and ViacomCBS, BET Studios will create premium television series and films for an array of internal buyers, including Paramount+, Showtime, CBS, Nickelodeon, BET+ and BET in addition to select third-party platforms that it said “seek best-in-class content from both leading and rising Black creatives.”
<img class="size-medium wp-image-1234834042" src="https://deadline.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/BET-Studios-headshot-2.jpg?w=163" alt="Aisha Summers-Burke" width="163" height="239" srcset="https://deadline.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/BET-Studios-headshot-2.jpg 163w, https://deadline.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/BET-Studios-headshot-2.jpg?resize=102,150 102w, https://deadline.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/BET-Studios-headshot-2.jpg?resize=41,60 41w, https://deadline.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/BET-Studios-headshot-2.jpg?resize=150,220 150w, https://deadline.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/BET-Studios-headshot-2.jpg?resize=110,161 110w" sizes="(max-width: 163px) 100vw, 163px" />
Burke will be responsible for working collaboratively with the Studio’s creative partners and key internal constituencies. She will overseeing day-to-day creative affairs, oversee the BET Studios content slate and focus on growing its production output across both internal and external platforms. She will report to BET President Scott Mills.
“The demand for premium content from Black creators has accelerated dramatically as a result of both the rapidly changing media and social landscapes. BET, with our 40-year legacy of celebrating Black culture, and the full power of the ViacomCBS ecosystem—is uniquely positioned to service this demand,” Mills said. “As a company with its origin in Black entrepreneurship, we are incredibly excited to create the first major studio to provide Black creators with ownership, creative freedom and the unparalleled partnership and support of BET. I am thrilled to have Aisha at the helm of this venture, and I look forward to our collaboration with our amazing creative partners in BET Studios.”
Prior to joining BET, Burke spent thirteen years at Warner Bros. Television, most recently serving as Vice-President of scripted television for the cable and streaming division of Warner Horizon before it merged with Warner Bros. TV in 2020.
“BET Studios is an exciting and novel extension of the storied BET brand, and we have a structure well-suited to our times to bring top talent into this production company with real ownership,” said David Nevins, chief content officer, scripted originals, Paramount+ and CEO of Showtime. “Scott Mills deserves tremendous credit for driving this innovative new business from idea to reality – and Kenya, Rashida and Aaron, could not be a more talented or in-demand group to lead this venture along with Aisha Summers.”
Writer, producer and director Barris created the Netflix original comedy #BlackAF and the multiseries “-ish” franchise including ABC’s Peabody Award-winning Black-ish and spin-off series Mixed-ish and Grown-ish, which airs on Freeform. Most recently, Barris co-wrote Coming 2 America, the sequel to John Landis’ 1980s classic with Eddie Murphy.
Jones is an actress, director, writer, and filmmaker. She executive produced Emmy nominated Hot Girls Wanted and the follow up Netflix series Turned On. Her 2018 documentary Quincy, about her father Quincy Jones, debuted on Netflix and won the Grammy for Best Music Film the next year. Alongside her partner Will McCormack, their company Le Train Train executive produced the hit dramedy series CLAWS, which premiered on TNT in 2017.
Thomas, a TV and film screenwriter and producer. was co-creator and co-showrunner of the S.W.A.T reboot on CBS and has worked on NBC’s Friday Night Lights — for which he received a Peabody Award and two NAACP Image Award nominations—as well as CBS series Numb3rs and CSI: NY. He’s served as a co-executive producer on TNT’s SouthLAnd, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, Netflix’s The Get Down and directed an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, Trojan War.
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