Shakeup in BET Management

BET Networks said that President of Programming Stephen Hill is stepping down at week’s end, and EVP Head of Original Programming Zola Mashariki is also departing. Connie Orlando, SVP Specials, Music Programming, and News, will serve as the interim Head of Programming, according to chairman and CEO Debra Lee, who broke the news to staff at the Viacom-owned network via memo.

The news comes a month ahead of BET Networks’ annual upfront presentation to advertisers in New York. Hill has been at Viacom since 1995 and at BET since 1999, and in his own memo bid farewell to colleagues and to “this powerful, agile, thrusting spacecraft of a brand.”

The network is part of Viacom Media Networks, which is in the middle of a revamp under new Viacom CEO Bob Bakish. Last month, he unveiled a sweeping new game plan to focus the entertainment giant around six TV brands and tie them more closely to the Paramount studio, for example with co-productions. One of those brands was BET, along with Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Comedy Central, MTV and the new Paramount Network which is what Spike will become. At the time, Bakish said Paramount’s young TV production arm will produce some shows for Viacom’s networks, and that “there will probably be significantly more third party content in terms of the mix than in-house.” Lee sent out a memo to staff today announcing Hill’s departure, and another for Orlando’s appointment.