America's Got Cable: CMT vs. BET

Welcome to another bone-gnawing week of America's Got Cable: The Search for the Nation's Finest Basic Cable Channel!

OLD BUSINESS: We Americans love a British accent! Congratulations to...

************************************BBC America************************************

Blimey! I agree with these guys and ladies:

CrimeDramaBee: "BBC America because it has pretty good reruns—I mean original programming—for us Americans."

JJGSoldier: "I like to pretend that I am a fancy Brit when I watch TV so definitely BBC AMERICA. BTW, it's good."

fzlmcq: "Definitely BBC America. It is working hard to become the Jamie Bamber channel. All they have to do is add a few Horatio Hornblower marathons and they'll be all set." [Ed note: Please do this, BBC America!]

NEW BUSINESS: This next matchup will attract only the most thoughtful of comments!


Background: In 1980, a cable industry lobbyist named Robert L. Johnson recognized a demographic need in the broadcast lineup and launched Black Entertainment Television, a channel to feature largely African-American-targeted programming. Its mission was more serious-minded at first, featuring news and talk shows and becoming the only black-controlled company traded in the New York Stock Exchange. But by 2002, the channel cut its entire news department and began focusing on music videos and lower-culture programming, earning the critical backlash of many black critics and artists, including Chuck D, The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder, and Spike Lee. BET is now owned and operated by Viacom and has recently been making a concerted effort to class up its lineup, resurrecting its news department and toning down rap video content.

Original Programming: In addition to its flagship music show 106 & Park, BET now has a pretty solid late-night talk show block that includes The Mo'Nique Show and The Wendy Williams Show. It also picked up network television castoff The Game for new episodes and has begun to focus on reality programming with shows like The Family Crews, Toya: A Family Affair, Monica: Still Standing, Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is..., Baldwin Hills, and prank show Hell Date. Finally, on Sundays BET also features Christian-themed gospel content, but unlike ABC Family's weird religious streak, it's not the spooky "we're all going to hell"-type stuff.

Reruns: In recent years BET has made a point of airing well-regarded shows that for one reason or another didn't find a large enough audience on network television. Shows like Everybody Hates Chris, The Bernie Mac Show, The Jamie Foxx Show, and Girlfriends get a lot of airtime alongside weekend blocks of surprisingly decent movies.

Why It's The Best: I'm definitely not the target demographic for this channel, but I still seem to watch it more often than, say, Logo.

Why It's The Worst: Sometimes BET reminds me a lot of VH1. We don't need another VH1... or ANY VH1's!


Background: Country Music Television was launched in 1983 merely two days before its chief competitor, TNN, made it to the air. The rivalry between CMT and TNN would shape both channels, up until they were both purchased by Viacom (as most channels were back then) and TNN underwent its transmogrification process to become Spike. CMT, meanwhile, prided itself on its nonstop country music video lineup, but eventually went the way of MTV by adding more and more reality shows and movies by the early 2000s. It's now one of the highest-rated entertainment channels, reaching more than 88 million homes, yet it still claims to air at least six hours of music videos every day. Your move, MTV.

Original Programming: In addition to its various music-video blocks and countdowns, CMT's main bread and butter is country music "lifestyle" programming, including reality shows Sweet Home Alabama, My Big Redneck Wedding, Working Class, CMT's Next Superstar, Texas Women, and The Singing Bee

Reruns: Obviously CMT airs Dukes of Hazzard. Obviously. But also such heartland favorites as the Jeff Foxworthy-hosted Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and—credit where credit's due—surprisingly great comedy movies like Son in Law, Three Amigos, and The Naked Gun.

Why It's The Best: Who doesn't wish they had a slight Southern accent? Plus, whoever chooses CMT's movie lineup deserves a raise...

Why It's The Worst: Except, ugh, the movies are edited and censored to death.

Official Verdict: I probably watch more Wendy Williams than is healthy, but oh well: BET, I guess.

But now it's your turn! Vote below, then COMMENT and tell us your verdict: BMT or CMT? And make your case! What do you love or hate about each channel?

Want to catch up on past battles? Head over to the America's Got Cable archives.

Follow writer Price Peterson on Twitter: @pricepeterson

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