After years without daily news programming, it comes as no surprise that Don’t Sleep with T.J. Holmes is not getting its due with the B.E.T. audience. They announced that they are scaling back the nightly program halfway into the season. The former CNN commentator will go from a nightly 30-minute segment to an hour long weekly program.
Even though there is a rise in customized niche in cable network news, B.E.T. no longer has the reputation or the audience to support “all Black everything.” Once upon a time, the network was the go-to station for anything relevant to African-Americans. In addition to music and video programs like Rap City, B.E.T. featured regular shows like Teen Summit and B.E.T Tonight with Tavis Smiley.
Currently, it maintains a diverse audience of viewers from various economic, age, and racial backgrounds, but they key into the station for staple programming like 106 & Park and reality T.V. fashioned after other Viacom networks. While Holmes does cover some pop culture, the host focuses more on world affairs and national policy.
Some will look at this situation as a justification for BET, VH1, and other networks that run on a steady media diet of “The Real Sports Wives of Single Bad Girls” formula noting Black viewership has spoken with the remote and don’t want quality programming. That would be a grossly inaccurate conclusion that doesn’t factor in the agency of Black viewers who want, and often demand quality shows. Think about the enthusiasm in bringing back one of the best CW network programs, The Game as one example. Now think about everything those same fans felt when the plot and production quality dwindled. People do care about what they watch, but the question is, can they get the right audience before this show gets cancelled? CEO Debra Less says Black folks ask for this type of program but “ … they don’t show up.”
Although there is an audience for Don’t Sleep, I am not sure if B.E.T. has that viewership or knows how to get them tuning back in to the network on a regular basis. They need to strengthen the program and stop trying to be all things all the time. Is this show likened to Jon Stewart or Meet the Press? The network should also consider changing the time to an earlier slot for less competition in late-night entertainment and boutique style news on major networks.
Additionally, what has B.E.T. done to prime its existing viewers to embrace a serious program like this? Considering internet news and social media, what can they do differently to reach out and expand? Last, but not least, what can they to do, and what should they do to reestablish themselves as a network that is more than Top 40’s hip hop and trash talk?