Groundbreaking BET (Black Entertainment Television) Networks was launched today (January 25, 1980).
The network was founded by Bob Johnson, who launched the company with a $15,000 loan and help from Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI).
Bob Johnson graduated from the University of Illinois and Princeton University with a Masters Degree in Public Affairs.
His first major job was for Walter Fauntroy, as Press Secretary for the D.C. congressman.
It was this job that led him to act as a lobbyist for three years, for 1,500 cable operators.
The experience allowed Bob Johnson to make valuable contacts that he would later use when he launched BET on January 25.
Johnson, with the invaluable help form his wife Sheila, launched BET to 23.8 million subscribers in 350 markets, according to the book “Inside MTV” R. Serge Denishoff.
When it launched, BET was broadcast on the MSG Channel on Fridays, from 11 PM to 1:00 AM.
The first program to air on BET was a 1974 film titled “Visit To a Chief’s Son.”
In 1983, BET began airing 24 hours a day and by 1989 the company moved into a $10 million studio in Washington DC.