BET hosts Centric launch party on Martha's Vineyard
Timing is everything and perfect timing just flows when you're "stylish, hip and sophisticated," as BET cable-TV describes Centric, its newest channel.
Last Thursday, just days before the Obama family's Vineyard visit, BET (Black Entertainment Television), in a glittery evening at Mediterranean Restaurant in Oak Bluffs, launched Centric.
BET executive Scott Mills recently called the Obamas as "a perfect example" of Centric's targeted African American and multi-cultural demographic. Debra Lee, the chairman and chief executive officer of BET who has been summering here for 10 years, said, "I can't think of a better place to launch Centric." Neither could Viacom, BET's parent company.
BET has cultivated an audience of 89 million viewers over its 29-year history. Its new channel is aimed at a sophisticated, hip, trend-setting audience between 24 and 59 years old, according to Centric general manager Paxton Baker. Mr. Paxton said Centric will deliver 40 million of them on September 28. Centric programming will be a mix of fresh music, lifestyle programming and some retro viewing, including airing of Soul Train, a classic TV music show that ran for 35 years, making it the longest running show in TV history.
With worldwide press and the A-List of Island and national African-Americans in place, the BET event was a hot ticket. Callers to BET event planners requesting tickets on Thursday morning were told not to bother leaving messages.
The event, sponsored in part by Comcast, was packed. Guests came and they stayed. From Spike Lee to the Vernon Jordan, to folks like Wendy Taucher, The Yard's artistic director, Islanders and visitors came to the bash orchestrated in part by high-octane public relations executive Vickee Jordan Adams (daughter of Vernon Jordan).
BET did it right, checking guests in and then past a well-dressed phalanx of security, across the obligatory red carpet and into a very bright, very hot TV interview tent. They were then directed to a garden party before entering the restaurant that was transformed into a chic club, complete with big-screen live coverage of the event.
The party easily held its edge through a 90-minute wait for hip-hop soulstress Erykah Badu, who made her entrance wearing a top hat, and posing for 'pix 'n flix' in the interview tent before facing a mob of several hundred fans inside.
Asked if he was working with Centric, filmmaker Spike Lee smiled and murmured, "No, but I wish I were," as he made his way into the party.
Jack Shea is a regular contributor to The Times.