Brandy pays tribute to mentor and friend Whitney Houston during the 2012… (Christopher Polk/Getty…)
This was the last year that BET staged its annual awards spectacle at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, where it'd been held since 2006, and Sunday's telecast lived up to its "Too big to miss" tagline.
The three-hour-plus production saw the highly antcipated return of D'Angelo, over-the-top performances by Kanye West (and his G.O.O.D. Music clan), Nicki Minaj and an emotional tribute to the late Whitney Houston led by her mother, Cissy.
Though not a ratings smash -- it drew 7.4 million viewers, down slightly from last year’s 7.7 million -- next year’s telecast could change that.
In April, the network announced plans to expand the awards into a three-day destination festival called the BET Awards Experience, and it revealed a freshly inked deal with Anschutz Entertainment Group that would bring the show to the glitzy, $2.5-billion L.A. Live complex in 2013.
It's an experiment that could prove a tipping point for the network. Though the show is routinely one of BET's highest rated programs, it continues to be eclipsed by competing music specials, including the American Music Awards on ABC and MTV's Video Music Awards. That could change if the network gives more camera time to the weekend's events.
"It allows us to take the show to the next level," said Debra Lee, chairman and chief executive of BET. "We are making more opportunities for advertisers and taking it to a level that can get more consumers involved."
BET is still working on plans for the Experience, but it got a jump on next year by quietly placing tickets on sale through Ticketmaster just as Sunday’s telecast was being beamed into living rooms (we sat in the audience, so maybe there was an advertisement we didn’t see on the broadcast).
The BET Experience at L.A. Live is set for June 28-30, 2013, with the awards scheduled for June 30 at Nokia Theatre. Packages start at $199, and are also offered at $299 and $399.
Packages include three-night passes to a planned concert series at Staples Center, access to the “106 & Park” stage, an intimate concert and comedy series at Club Nokia and seminars. There also will be a free expo and a free stage that will showcase upstart artists.
A BET representative said the network had yet to finalize whether Experience tickets would offer access to the awards program telecast itself.