BET President Scott Mills wants viewers of this year’s BET Awards to understand one thing in advance: Don’t call it a virtual awards show.
It is a “complete mischaracterization of what the show is,” says Mills of the BET Awards who, like many other special events, has had to shift gears as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage. Celebrating its twentieth anniversary, the ceremony will air Sunday night (June 28) and will also make its debut on the national broadcast on CBS.
Noting that other media have tagged the show as virtual, Mills continues: “We never really described it as virtual. We said that we are proceeding with the award ceremony and not doing it in front of a live audience. “
Mills emphasizes that the show will not feature artists simply performing from their homes. Instead, the performances will take place at various locations.
“We were absolutely committed,” he adds, “not to do a show presentation on the couch.”
Ahead of the television broadcast of the BET Awards on Sunday, Mills hints at what else fans can expect, Amanda Seales’ “critical” role as this year’s presenter, her favorite award moments, and the future of the BET brand as the cable network celebrates at the same time its 40th anniversary
Can you give us an idea of what the BET Awards will be like?
With what is happening in this country, particularly what is happening in the context of African Americans and the heartbreaking focus on racial inequalities, artists are really [being] they moved to use their voices to draw more attention and attention to these issues. We also know that the artists at its core are all creative human beings. We celebrate the 20th anniversary of the BET Awards and a lot has already been done on stage. So we said to the artists, “We are not going to do this at the Microsoft Theater [in Los Angeles]. Now you have flexibility. Where would you like [perform]? And people have chosen some amazing places.
The opening of the program will be so powerful, speaking the moment we meet as the African American community. It is going to be absolutely and deeply current and moving. It will also be evidence of how the problems we are fighting against today are the ones we have been fighting for so long. It is a really powerful opening that I think will set the tone.
How do presenter Amanda Seales and presenters fit into this renewal?
Amanda is a great host for this because part of what you have to be is really flexible and able to respond to very dynamic situations. The host plays a critical role, potentially an even more critical role this year, because it’s up to the host to put all the elements together and help make the experience consistent. The great news is that this year there are powerful starting lines, as you might imagine, given everything that is happening in the world. [Amanda] He is filming his segments on sound stages and will be the person who will unite all the different moments, presentations, tributes, tributes and honors throughout the show. We will have other people presenting. But we are really going to rely heavily on the host given the executions.
What are some of your favorite awards moments from the past 20 years?
Michael Jackson honoring James Brown in 2003 is a favorite moment. Kanye West doing “Jesus walks” [in 2004] With Yolanda Adams it was another incredibly powerful moment. When Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith hosted in 2005; The performance of Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar [“Freedom”] in 2016 … I could go on and on. That’s what I love about the show: extraordinary moments that are so specific to our culture.
When we gave Tyler Perry the Icon Award in 2019, [his speech] It was very moving. If you were an 18 year old observer, it was a powerful message for you. If you were a 52-year-old observer, it was also a resonant message for you. I love that ability of our platform to allow important people in our community to speak to our community on such a scale.
How would you describe the lasting impact of the BET Awards?
The award ceremony is this unique opportunity for people who deeply respect the black community, who deeply respect black culture, who care deeply about black people coming together in the first place to recognize and celebrate all that is amazing from our community. And also to use it as a platform to express our anger, our fear, our indignation, our worries and equally express our triumphs and our joys. [and] to celebrate the most extraordinary people in our community. It’s fascinating because, given what happened between the two plagues (COVID-19 and deadly racism), the BET Awards 2020 is more necessary than ever. That’s really the way we’ve dealt with it [the show] every year.
Given the recent merger between Viacom and CBS, is BET planning to regain its regular news schedule?
Absolutely. The key is to do it in a way that resonates with our audience. Now that Viacom and CBS are together, we have an extraordinary partnership with the CBS News team. It has significantly expanded our access to news gathering resources, which has been a great advantage to us. Now there is an absolute place for what we call a weekly news digest program through which important people in our community can come together, talk about what happened the week before and what’s to come. This is particularly important with the choices looming over us. We have had prominent journalists come to us and tell us: “A while ago I did really important work on race and the United States, and it is terrible how little has changed. I want to go back and pick that up in 2020 with a vengeance and really use it as a vehicle to drive change in important areas. ”
We are also working on an African American news magazine program, picking up a very important topic for the week and also outlining extraordinary African Americans. Everyone knows the extraordinary and successful artists and athletes in our community. But there is also an incredible array of entrepreneurs, academics, and social justice people who are not being profiled.
What does the future hold for the network brand in the future?
That is one of the reasons why we launched BET +. Our responsibility is to ensure that BET is as relevant and robust in 40 years as it is today. We have to make critical decisions today to ensure that happens because we have seen brands in the African-American community that were enormously relevant and powerful, but that today are virtually irrelevant. Not that anyone intended that to happen. Is that there were a series of missed opportunities or a series of critical decisions that were not made optimally. If we are going to be important to people in 10 years and more, we must have products that serve those people. Our job, as with BET Experience and digital two decades ago, is to constantly monitor and understand our audience.