Cha-cha-change is in the air at BET. And it’s a big one. On Tuesday, the network issued a statement saying that it’s getting’ the hell out of Washington, DC, its longtime headquarters home since 1980.
OK, they didn’t exactly say they were “gettin’ the hell” out of DC, but the bottom line is that they are leaving the city and moving operations to NYC.
The network confirmed the news after Deadline obtained a copy of a memo to the DC staff from BET Networks chairman and CEO Debra Lee in which she announced the plan. Oh yeah, Ms. Lee is gettin’ out of Dodge, too. More on that below.
Here’s the deal. The DC office will close July 7, with the move to New York. It was unclear whether the staff was offered the opportunity to transfer to NYC or whether there will be layoffs. According to a source the DC team has about 20 salaried employees and 40 freelancers.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, those employees were not told whether they could transition to New York or Los Angeles or if they would be laid off outright.
“The closing of BET Network’s Washington D.C. office has been an ongoing transition in line with our overall strategy to make New York BET’s new headquarters,” a BET spokesperson is quoted as saying. “We are very proud that Washington D.C. was the birthplace of BET Networks, the first network and the premier destination for African American audiences for the past 37 years.”
At this point the move makes sense since very little seems to be happening in DC for the network. Most of its programming happens in LA and New York and the only program that shoots in Washington is the gospel music series “Joyful Noise.” It’s not clear whether that series will also move. Interestingly, the BET spokesperson also said Lee, who was also based in Washington has put her home on market and apparently is not moving to New York, but instead, has already moved to Los Angeles.
The Deadline article also notes that commercial real estate site Bisnow reported last month that BET was close to a deal last month to sell its Brentwood headquarters property in northern DC, and that the 7.8-acre parcel had been on the market since mid-2016.