Change is coming to BET.
Debra Lee, the networks' president, said that she will be leaving that role at the start of the year and handing oversight of daily operations to Scott Mills, currently an executive vice president and chief administrative officer at parent company Viacom.
Lee will retain her positions as BET Networks' chairman and CEO, concentrating on the company's engagement with communities. She will also advise Mills in his new role.
“Today, BET is thriving as the #1 network for African American audiences, and we continue to see strong growth in ratings, share and social engagement,’’ Lee said in a statement. “As I look to the future, I believe it is the right time to take a step back from day-to-day responsibilities at BET.’’
Lee, who has helped helm BET for 20 years, is credited with bringing more quality programming to an entertainment platform that was best known — and often criticized for — round the clock music videos. Shows launched on Lee's watch include the popular Being Mary Jane, starring Gabrielle Union, and The Game. The network has also become known for glamorous entertainment specials like the Soul Train Awards and The BET Awards.
Bob Bakish, Viacom's president and CEO, said in a statement that Lee’s “vision and leadership, unmatched intuition for what audiences want, and ability to attract and foster top talent — both behind and in front of the camera — have been pivotal to this success.’’
He also gave a strong vote of confidence to Mills, whom he said played a key role in cementing an agreement with filmmaker Tyler Perry to provide content to BET.
Mills is “the right person for this role, as we continue to extend this brand across platforms and markets around the world,’’ he said.