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BET entertainment chief is stepping down

September 12, 2008|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

After three years as president of entertainment at Black Entertainment Television, Reginald Hudlin is leaving his post at the Viacom Inc.-owned cable network, the company announced Thursday. No official explanation was given for his departure.

Hudlin, a filmmaker who rose to prominence in the 1980s and '90s with box-office successes such as "House Party" and "Boomerang," will step down within a few weeks and return to his "entrepreneurial roots as an independent producer," said Debra L. Lee, chief executive of BET Networks.

Stephen Hill, BET's executive vice president of music programming and talent, will serve as interim entertainment chief. Lee said she hoped to find a successor for Hudlin within the next few months.

"Reggie accomplished a lot and launched a lot of great show franchises," Lee said. "He has accomplished what he intended to do, and we're hoping that his programming strategy continues."

Though some executives said the exit was Hudlin's decision, other insiders said the split was by mutual agreement. One of Hudlin's goals when he took over at BET was to showcase more positive images of African Americans, but the strategy, which produced no breakout hits, left the network struggling in the ratings. BET's second-quarter prime-time viewership ratings this year have dropped about 14% compared with last year.

The executive's departure closely follows some critical acclaim for Tuesday's premiere of "Somebodies," BET's first scripted series ever in its 28-year history -- and a show Hudlin developed. His plans for an animated series on BET about a black superhero created considerable buzz at this summer's Comic-Con International convention in San Diego.

In an interview, Hudlin said he felt "very grateful. There are not a lot of places where a creator would get a call to be asked to be an executive."

He added, "I knew that I would return to the creative arena at some point. There have always been a lot of opportunities shooting my way."


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