The two top programming executives at Viacom-owned cable channel BET left the company abruptly this week. The Los Angeles Times reports that programming head Stephen Hill and Zola Mashariki, head of original programming, are out.
Hill has been at BET for 18 years and at Viacom for 22, the report notes. Mashariki is a relative newcomer, having joined Viacom from Fox in 2015.
Announcing his exit in a memo to staffers, Hill said: “It has been my honor to serve this brand. I am thrilled to have been able to be a member of the teams that … created so many spectacles, moments, memories and miracles.”
“Like dozens of cable television channels, BET has been struggling to maintain its cultural edge and viewers amid a proliferation of programming options,” The Times notes. “The network’s ratings are down 3% during the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2016 but BET has avoided the steep drop in ratings experienced by sister networks MTV and Comedy Central. Those channels have seen their audiences shrink more than 20%.”
The shakeout comes as new Viacom CEO Bob Bakish is doing some corporate housecleaning.
“Since Bakish was installed as the company’s permanent CEO in December, he has shaken up the ranks, leading to the departures of several high-level executives, including the uber-head of the MTV and Comedy Central networks, the top executive [at] MTV and the chairman of movie studio Paramount Pictures,” The Times reports.
During the leadership transition at BET, Connie Orlando, senior VP for specials and music programming, will take over as interim programming chief.