The Shari BET Strategy

Tyler Perry, Paramount Global chairperson Shari Redstone, and BET president Scott Mills.
Tyler Perry, Paramount Global chairperson Shari Redstone, and BET president Scott Mills. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images
Julia Alexander
March 21, 2023

These days, conventional wisdom in Hollywood and on Wall Street is that Shari Redstone isn’t a seller of Paramount Global—at least not right now, and for good reason. Paramount’s stock is up for the year but down from a peak in February. Despite the media company’s extraordinary assets—the top linear network in CBS and its still-mighty news division, Top Gun studio Paramount Pictures, the Taylor Sheridan universe, and a large library of I.P.—Paramount’s market capitalization remains mired at about $14 billion, which is less than the value of CBS Corp. when Redstone first said she wanted to merge the companies years ago. (Those questioning the industrial logic of the merger can also peruse my partner Bill Cohan’s oeuvre.) 

Anyway, long story short, it’s hard to imagine that Redstone would have endured her various burdens to recombine the companies—winning her way back into her father Sumner’s heart, evicting his girlfriends, peacing-out Les Moonves, sunsetting Philippe Dauman, paying out Joe Ianniello, etc. etc.—only to sell them off for parts. Sure, Shari likely gets advice from bankers about the value of, say, the film studio to a company like Netflix, but she has resisted. As my partner Matt Belloni recently noted, Redstone and her C.E.O. Bob Bakish also rebuffed a gesture from a David Nevins-led group to buy Showtime. Bakish insists that Showtime is more valuable as a matrixed asset within the parentco than as a one-time windfall, even if it’s $3 billion. 

Redstone and Bakish, however, have had a different stance regarding BET, the brainchild of media magnate Robert Johnson, who launched BET in 1980, turned a profit in 1985, and sold it to Viacom for around $3 billion in 2001. Paramount wants to sell it—presumably to put more money towards its core streaming business—with Black entertainment moguls like Diddy, Tyler Perry and Byron Allen expressing interest in taking over the network.