WSJ Renewal Said Tyler Perry is Interested in Paramount Global

WSJ Renewal confirmed the discussions between Mr. Perry and Paramount come as the company is considering selling the majority stake in BET Media Group, which includes the cable channels BET and VH1, people familiar with the matter said. A potential sale of part of the unit, which caters primarily to Black audiences, is part of the entertainment giant’s effort to shore up resources to bolster its flagship Paramount+ streaming service and its advertiser-supported free streaming platform Pluto TV, some of the people said.

Paramount, which also owns CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures, has made strengthening Paramount+ a priority as it seeks to compete with other major streaming services such as Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+, Netflix Inc. and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.’s HBO Max.

Earlier this year, the company decided to fold its Showtime streaming service into Paramount+ and rebrand the Showtime premium channel as “Paramount+ With Showtime,” as The Wall Street Journal earlier reported. The company has said it made the move to help lower costs and present one signature streaming service in a crowded streaming market.

Although BET and its streaming service BET+ have strong brands, it would be challenging to fold that service into Paramount+, because Mr. Perry owns the minority stake in the streaming platform, people familiar with the matter said. If the company does sell the stake, it intends to maintain a commercial relationship with BET, said one of the people to WSJ Renewal.

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Mr. Perry is a prolific producer who has made more than a dozen television series and more than 20 movies. His credits include the “Madea” movie franchise and television shows such as “Sistas” and “Meet the Browns.”

BET Studios, a production arm of BET, also has minority stakeholders including producers Kenya Barris, Rashida Jones, and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas.

Paramount had about 56 million subscribers to Paramount+ as of Dec. 31, and another 21.4 million subscribers to its smaller subscription streaming services, such as its Showtime streaming service and BET+. The company doesn’t break out subscriber figures for BET+ specifically.

Founded in 1980 by Robert Johnson with backing from cable mogul John Malone, Black Entertainment Television was the first national programming service primarily targeting Black viewers. Viacom, which is now called Paramount Global, acquired BET in 2000 for $2.3 billion in stock and the assumption of $570 million in debt.

Besides looking to unload assets that may prove challenging to incorporate into Paramount+, Paramount Global wants to shore up its balance sheet. Paramount has said the company expects 2023 to be the peak year in spending and that next year the company will hit positive cash flow and earnings growth.

One asset Paramount declined to sell despite a strong offer is Showtime. Earlier this year, the company turned down a more than $3 billion offer to sell the premium channel to David Nevins, who oversaw Showtime and had backing from private-equity firm General Atlantic.