Paramount’s BET+ will launch ad-supported plan on June 25

Paramount’s BET+, a subscription streaming service targeted to Black audiences, has unveiled plans to launch a lower cost, ad-supported tier on June 25.

Dubbed BET+ Essential, the tier will cost $5.99 per month, four dollars cheaper than the standard plan at $9.99 per month. BET+ with ads will contain both 15- and 30-second ad spots that play before and during programming. However, content and video quality will remain the same as on the premium tier.

As with the current BET+ plan, new BET+ Essential customers will receive a one-week free trial. Existing BET+ subscribers won’t see any changes to their service.

BET+ launched in September 2019 as a joint venture between Paramount (then ViacomCBS) and Tyler Perry Studios. The service touts a library of more than 2,000 hours of content from media figures like Tyler Perry, Gabrielle Union, Mary J. Blige and Kevin Hart. The debut of BET+ Essential coincides with the date of this year’s BET Awards ceremony. The awards show, which is broadcast live on BET, highlights Black actors, music artists, athletes and philanthropists.

“This lower priced, ad-supported tier of BET+ will not only deliver to our audiences, but to the advertising community, which has long expressed an appetite for more non-linear options in reaching the highly coveted, digital-native Black consumer market,” stated Louis Carr, president of media sales at BET Media Group.

He added 80% of BET+ subscribers watch from a connected TV, so the ad-supported plan will help advertisers reach “even more Black viewers when they are most engaged.”

BET+’s ad-supported tier comes as Paramount considers selling off its majority stake in BET Media Group. Those assets include the BET and VH1 cable channels as well as a majority stake in BET+.

Paramount thus far hasn’t disclosed what it wants to do with BET. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported a group of celebrities, featuring Shaquille O’Neal and rap artist 50 Cent, is interested in making a bid for BET Media. Other potential bidders include Tyler Perry, who owns a minority stake in BET+, and Allen Media Group’s Byron Allen. AMG last year acquired the Black News Channel for $11 million, bringing the then-defunct network out of bankruptcy.

Paramount doesn’t report standalone subscriber numbers for BET+. Its flagship streaming service Paramount+, on the other hand, reached 60 million global subscribers in Q1. Total direct-to-consumer revenues increased 39% year-over-year to around $1.5 billion.

BET+ isn’t the only streamer plotting an ad-supported release in 2023. AMC Networks plans to release an ad-supported version of AMC+ in October, though the company has yet to disclose pricing. On Tuesday’s earnings call, AMC CEO Kristin Dolan said the company’s “entire distribution ecosystem will be ad-supported, providing us with important new opportunities to drive revenue and grow our business.”

Also, Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max streaming service, which combines HBO Max with Discovery+, is set to launch on May 23. Max will consist of three plan options, including an ad-lite tier costing $9.99 per month.