Two leading purveyors of multi-ethnic content were front and center with upfront crowds last week.

BET Networks(BET/Centric)

Venue: Jazz At Lincoln Center, getting more upfront ceremonies than any other location, did the big screen on stage approach with a twist. Often, the images flashed on screen went from one to many, jigsaw puzzle-like fashion. In one clip sequence, a large puzzle portion briefly blacked out the clip, an extremely rare technical snafu for the usually on-point JALC production team. Another BET logonoticeable situation: the drinks served outnumbered the food served by a mile. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Presentation : The networks most well-rounded ever, so much so you never noticed how long it went (over 90 minutes) because there were so many highlights. Off the bat, chief executive officer Debra Lee promised "time to give you our big pitch, our flashy song-and-dance on why you should invest in us," then asked Jim, the off-stage announcer to break out the numbers part of the pitch to the Match Game (fill in the year) theme. That big pitch behind the numbers: BET has become the trusted brand for African-Americans, trusted far more than other networks targeting this audience whole or in part. Where some Upfronts generate one musical showstopper, BET delivered three: Chaka Kahn (just marked her 60th birthday) owning all in sight singing "Tell Me Something Good"; Karen & J. Drew Sheards doing "Indescribable" in honor of Boston Marathon bombing victims (with "We Honor Boston" on a black screen backdrop) and a three-song closing set from Miguel. Real Husbands of Hollywood's cast hit the stage pre-Miguel with side-splitting repartee among each other. And what would things be without Louis Carr, BET's charismatic ad sales chief, always good for a noteworthy upfront takeaway. "Credibility is not automatic--it's what others bestow on you," Carr said. "You either have it or you don't." Grade: 5 Jacks

News : Being Mary Jane, BET's first scripted drama series starring Gabrielle Union, opens July 2 with a two-hour edition, then follows with hour-long episodes early 2014. (Attendees saw a full scene from that opener. If that's a sign of things ahead, the network has something special with, given Union's appeal, big crossover audience possibility.) The fall season newbies are a Mind, Body & Soul talk session with Bishop T.D. Jakes and the return of long-running Comic View. Reality series Burns BBQ comes in next spring. Sister channel Centric's new element (premiering last Friday) is new episodes of the Byron Allen-syndicated comedies The First Family and Mr. Box Office...the first Allen programs to get a national network run (while still in first-run production) other than his Entertainment Studios set of high-definition services. Grade: 4 Jacks

Host : Lee, Carr, BET programming executives Loretha Jones and Stephen Hill, and Centric general manager Paxton Baker all came through well. Our annual question: when does Carr get his own BET or Centric program? Grade: 5 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4.5 Jacks Great mix of pitch, clips, hilarity and that trio of musical showstoppers.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

 

mun2

Venue : Until now, mun2 and its bicultural, bilingual format directed to young Latinos was nestled inside Telemundo's annual showcase (both nets owned by NBC Universal). For its breakout solo engagements (facing journalists in the morning/the ad crowd the same night), intimate, colorful Skylight Modern on W. 27th St., close to the popular High Line overhead walkway, was utilized. Breakfast tacos were available for the press reps, and they were yummy. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Presentation: For now, the network will keep the focus on reality series featuring aspiring Latino celebrities and role models, or music. Authentic lifestyle entertainment, as labeled by general manager Diana Mogolion, is drawing the young Latino audience in. Advertisers are picking up that vibe, added sales chief Joe Bernard, with 30 new sponsors checking in during 2012, especially wireless and family dining chains--"even Starbucks." Grade: 4.5 Jacks

News : Five new series coming up over the next year. Music-oriented Al Tiro Con (LA radio personality) La Bronca and mun2Pop! premiere by summer's end, followed by reality shows Viva Los Vargas (with world boxing champ Fernando Vargas), Reinas de Realty/Queens of Realty (highlighting LA reality agents Jackie Mateos and Liz Perez) and Horoscopos (Vicky and sister Marisol Terrazas, Chicago-based members of the music group Horoscopos de Durango). As part of the umbrella deal announced by NBC Universal last week, mun2 will present 66 English Premier League soccer games in Spanish (Telemundo will offer 10 games on its own.). Separately, Telemundo will have its Deportes crew produce a number of Mas Rumbo Mundial/More Road To The World Cup specials after selected mun2 matches. Will mun2 dive back into scripted drama, two years after testing the waters with bilingual RPM Miami? Yes, Mogolion declared. "We have some things on the back burner and probably have something to say about (doing at least one 2014 drama) next time we're in New York." Grade: 5 Jacks

Host : Smooth delivery from both Mogolion and Bernard. Both get extra credit for a special bilingual question-and-answer session with several of their reality personalities (including Vargas and Larry Hernandez of ongoing hit Larrymania) Grade: 5 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4.5 Jacks Solid, versatile solo debut.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

Next up: AMC and BBC America

Quick observation from the passing parade:

Kudos to Broadcasting & Cable/Multichannel News publisher New Bay Media for their debut Multiethnic TV Leadership Awards last week. The event went beyond distributing well-deserved honors to executives for pioneering a broader array of channels targeting people of color. A morning set of panel sessions and one-on-one interviews generated avenues to pursue that course faster and farther. Count on this becoming a much-catch portion of the TV industry's spring calendar. One suggestion going forward: audience question-and-answer time for every session.

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

Simon Applebaum is producer/host of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the radio program all about TV. Tomorrow runs live Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific Time on www.blogtalkradio.com, with replays available at www.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04. A weekly TV series edition will soon premiere on the new UBC-TV network.

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