Paramount abandons sale plan for BET

Paramount Global has given up on plans to sell a majority stake in BET Media Group, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

According to the paper, the company revealed yesterday that it would end the bidding process for the outfit having concluded that a sale would not enable it to deleverage its balance sheet in any meaningful way.

The entertainment giant has reportedly received bids in the range of US$2-3 billion for BET, which operates streamer BET+ the BET channel, BET Studios and VH1.

Among those interested in the stake were US media tycoons Tyler Perry and Byron Allen. Perry holds a 25% minority stake in BET and has a multiyear content deal with Paramount, while Allen owns the Black News Channel among other media properties.

Paramount, then Viacom, acquired BET in 2000 for US$2.9 billion in stock and debt. The studio has been looking to divest assets more recently to fund development of its loss-making streamer Paramount+ and focus on core entertainment assets.

Earlier this month, Paramount agreed the sale of publishing outfit Simon & Schuster to private equity investors KKR for US$1.62 billion in a move that president and CEO Bob Bakish said would deliver value for shareholders and help delever the group’s balance sheet.

Paramount’s streamer now has around 61 million subscribers but delivered a loss of US$424 million for the quarter to June. Like other US majors Paramount has implemented significant cost cutting.

During the company’s last earnings call, Bakish was non-committal about the future of BET, telling analysts only that the company was “looking for ways to maximse shareholder value” that could “involve divesting acquiring or potentially partnering on assets”.

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