BET needs a new hustle

I, like many people, was outraged a few years ago when entrepreneur Robert Johnson sold his baby, Black Entertainment Television.  Is it just me, or has there been a downward spiral ever since?

BET has been assigned to MTV’s leftovers, or rather, MTV’s refuse.  As both are owned by parent company Viacom, I would view this as a savvy opportunity to be the total supplier of all things music related to all members of the oft-targeted 18-34-year-old age demographic.  It looks instead like an attempt to drive BET under.

I guess all the marketing talent is drained from working so hard for MTV, but then again the only shows BET has to advertise are thinly veiled recreations of MTV originals. 

MTV has “Spring Break”, BET gets “Spring Bling.”  MTV has “The Real World”, years later BET gets that God-awful “College Hill”.  MTV gets original programming like “Made”, “Laguna Beach”, “Jackass”, “My Super Sweet 16”, “Pimp My Ride”, etc.  BET gets its first original show in the network’s 25-year history, “The Ultimate Hustler.” 

“You a hustla, so I know you gon’ get money – you just won’t be getting money here.”

Are you serious?

This is Damon Dash’s kiss of death to fire contestants on his tired, hip-hop recycling version of “The Apprentice.” 

“The Ultimate Hustler” is an hour-long commercial where Damon Dash shamelessly plugs all of his ventures. 

He opens the show in a Pro-Keds t-shirt.  The 16 contestants toast to Armandale vodka within minutes of meeting each other. They then visit the Team Roc office, where Dame explains how he is involved in every aspect of the clothing line’s design, right down to the newly launched shoes that smell like cookies. 

As for the contestants, I’m sure none of the wanna-be tycoons ever made the first impression with Donald Trump that one of the “hustlers” did with Damon Dash.  He was actually drunk.  (His vice? Armandale, of course.)

BET has so much potential.  It could easily be a beacon of quality entertainment for African-Americans.  But informative shows like Teen Summit and The BET Nightly News are axed in favor of three daily servings of 106 & Park. 

With all the pressing issues that affect our community – the geniuses at BET decided that we really need is a 24-hour marathon of “The Parkers.”Networks like TV One have stepped up to offer more variety.  There is a black cooking show, a black soap opera and more family-oriented programming.

BET could do the same.  I think in the grand scheme of things, BET and us, the viewing public, are being hustled. 

Driadonna Roland is a sophomore public relations student from Detroit. She can be reached at