Viacom is reportedly gearing up to launch a new "BET+" streaming service.
The service will act as an extension of the current BET channel but will be additionally weighted by exclusive content as well as a heavier emphasis on Tyler Perry-related TV shows and movies.
The information on this comes from a new WSJ report which in turn credits "people familiar with the plans" for the details.
At present, there's no word on how much the + service will cost although it is expected to be properly unveiled in a series of commercials set to be broadcast on June 23 during the BET Awards.
The service is then expected to officially launch later in the year.
While the new BET+ service will look to heavily push Tyler Perry content, it will also draw on other Viacom channels to pad out the catalog. This includes content pulled from Comedy Central, MTV and VH1.
One of the benefits of the new service from the consumer perspective, is that some new shows and movies will be exclusive to the + service at first. For example, BET+ subscribers will get to see select shows and movies up to eighteen months before the same content becomes available via the standard BET channel.
Networks are no stranger to launching streaming-based alternatives to main channels but it does not seem like this is expected to act as a direct replacement or evolution of the BET network. Instead, the + version will adopt a complimentary role to the main network, providing those who want more BET (and other Viacom) content the option to subscribe to the service on a no-contract basis.
In part, this is likely to be a result of the business model Viacom adopts in general. Viacom is still a company that is primarily focused on licensing content out to other providers instead of launching the type of direct-to-consumer solutions that have become increasingly popular in 2019.
However, that model did come under threat recently when AT&T announced a redefining of its DIRECTV NOW plans that saw AT&T increasing the price subscribers have to pay, while also reducing the selection of channels on offer. Viacom proved to be one of the biggest casualties during that channel culling.
The new DIRECTV NOW plans initially resulted in all of Viacom's channels being removed from the service, although the removal was short-lived. AT&T and Viacom agreed new terms resulting in the return of Viacom channels to the DIRECTV NOW platform following pressure from Viacom and consumers, alike.
In spite of the new deal, Viacom still likely considered the move a loss as roughly only half of the channels that were pulled returned again. BET was one of the channels along with MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and Comedy Central that did make a comeback.
Viacom taking the approach where it offers streaming solutions that complement its existing channels may be part of a wider approach to straddle both sides of the market.
By offering direct consumer access to + versions of channels, it allows the company to serve additional content directly to relevant consumers without having to worry about how the streaming solutions might impact on current (or future) arrangements with distribution partners.
When BET+ does launch, it is expected to become available on Android smartphones, as well as through the Amazon Fire, Roku and Apple TV platforms. There was no mention of Android TV support in the report.