Took a few days to realize that I had to hit the supermarket and get a new calendar. When we sang “Auld Lang Syne” to 2014, we also bid adieu to one of the strongest brands in Black music. Crazy, ’cause it seems like only yesterday we welcomed it with open arms.
It was late summer of 2000, the exact date escapes me, but a huge block party was held on 126th Street, directly across the from the Apollo, to celebrate the fact that the stars had aligned to make Harlem the place where stars would align. BET was about to set up shop in Harlem!
How real was that for people in the 10029 ZIP code to be able to catch a glimpse of, or sometimes mingle with, some of the biggest entertainers in the world who frequent THEIR neighborhood, day in and day out?
Sept. 11, 2000, was lift off. A.J. Calloway and Marie “Free” Wright were at the helm of what many hailed as the BET version of MTV’s “Total Request Live.” That sentiment couldn’t have been more off base. The show, named after the block that housed BET headquarters, was a hit from the door; however, few could foresee just how much impact it would eventually have.
Less than two years after the move to Harlem, BET was purchased by Viacom and relocated to the CBS Broadcast Center on 57th Street between 10th and 11th avenues. Despite the move, the show, which had become the BET flagship program, kept the name, and the movement toward history began for “106 & Park.”
“106 & Park” has been the No. 1 music variety show on cable for the past 15 consecutive quarters among adults aged 18 to 49, according to the Nielsen Company, and has also played an integral role in launching the careers of numerous hip-hop and R&B artists. It feels odd that we’ll now speak of the show in the past tense, because the last official broadcast of the show was Dec. 19.
Stephen Hill, BET’s president of music programming and specials, offered about the show, “We all have our favorite moments from the show that has put youth culture on television daily since the first year of this century. We have pride in being involved with the show that has welcomed almost every movie star, music superstar and fresh-faced talent you can name (you can even throw in a first lady). We’ve all laughed with and been entertained by the young men and women hosts that have charmed us at 6 p.m. (and more recently 5 p.m.) each weekday. All of us have been touched by ‘106 & Park.’ Now it’s time for ‘106 & Park,’ as a daily TV entity, to take a bow and exit.”
Hill continued, “It’s been a great 14-year run as America’s top music/variety show on cable. And now that very valuable brand is going to take its talents to the digital realm. The interactive brand you helped build, ‘106 & Park,’ is alive and well … and it’s moving to the space in which our audience NOW interacts with music the most: online. It’ll be very exciting to connect with the millions of people that are already engaged with ‘106 & Park’ and other BET digital and social media entities and bring content that will further evolve the ‘106 & Park’ brand—and enhance the overall BET Networks brand. As we transition to the digital space, we look to continue ‘106 & Park’s’ role as both a leader of and a mirror to youth culture. We’ll have more information to share about how that is to roll out very soon.”
Hill added, “And ‘106 & Park’ will still have specials on BET. What’s a New Year’s Eve without ‘106 & Party?’ ‘106 & Park Presents: 106 & Party’ will be on-air to take our viewers into the beginning of the second half of this decade in a big way. And when it’s time for the BET Awards to come around, you can be sure that ‘106 & Park Presents: Live, Red and Ready’ will be ushering you into the show and that ‘106 & Park’ will be an integral part of the BET experience.”
Hill concluded, “I’m not trying to minimize it; this is a very big change. We thank all the people who have worked on the show over the years—the talented hosts, the hard-working staff, production crews and all the incredible guests we’ve had. Most of all, we’d like to humbly thank the ‘livest audience,’ both in studio and at home, who fueled this landmark TV show from the very beginning. Meet you in the digital domain.”
It’ll be interesting to see if and how Black music will be effected as yet another outlet is removed. Over and out. Holla next week. Till then, enjoy the nightlife.