Oct 21, 2019
By Nicole Bitette
“I want as many eyeballs to be able to watch them all at the same time.”
Tyler Perry will mark his Viacom debut on October 23 with the premiere of Sistas and The Oval on BET.
The shows are the first product of a multi-platform deal he inked with Viacom in 2017, under which Perry will produce roughly 90 television episodes per year for BET, short-form video content across the company’s networks, and will grant Paramount Pictures exclusive first-look rights on feature films.
Perry says he wanted Sistas and The Oval to live on BET linear because of appointment-based viewing. The Oval focuses on the family drama of a white president and Black first lady as they navigate living in the White House with their two young adult children. Sistas follows four Black women navigating careers, friendships, and relationships.
“I want as many eyeballs to be able to watch them all at the same time. To have that whole Twitter conversation as we've had for the Have and Have Nots [an OWN series] for the last six or seven years,” Perry tells Viacom during an interview in a mansion set on the studio lot. “I just want the communities to start to gather around it. And once they galvanize around it, I think it'll lead directly to whatever happens on BET+.”
Senior Creative Director and Head of Development for Tyler Perry Studios, Elon Johnson, joined Perry’s team after working for various Viacom networks over the years. Her development department was created because of the newly-formed partnership. Her job is to find the directors, writers, and producers who will work on the content that isn’t solely written, directed, and produced by Perry himself (like The Oval and Sistas).
Part of Johnson’s job is also finding the best distribution platform for these shows and movies. “Linear is an appointment viewing space where it's like, ‘Okay, it's a Wednesday night, we are going to make pizza and then we're going to watch The Oval.’ When we're appointment viewing, we know we only have that one hour or that one half-hour to see that particular piece of content. It's a quicker ingest of the content,” she explains.
“When it's streaming, it's more likely to be binge content. People like to have the whole entire series. They like to be able to keep going. Whether they want to get off the couch or not, they want to have that content a constant flow,” Johnson adds.