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In today’s totally unexpected news, popular BET President of Programming Stephen Hill is exiting the network after 18 years. There are rumors swirling that his abrupt exit is due to the internal shake-up at Viacom.

Late this afternoon news dropped that Stephen Hill would officially be leaving the network he helped build, as he, along with Executive Vice President of Programming Zola Mashariki, would both be leaving the network at the end of the week.

Industry insider Deadline was the first to break the shocking news, that has many scratching their heads trying to piece together what happened. Hill was just promoting BET’s new original series Rebel on social media hours before it premiered this past Tuesday, which could mean that his exit was unplanned.

BET Chairman and CEO Debra Lee first broke the news of Hill’s departure in a company memo thanking him for his time at the network while highlighting the many projects he was a part of, such as the BET Awards, countless musical tributes and the mega-success of The New Edition Story that aired in January.

According Deadline the reason for Hill’s departure could be due to a larger issue involving Viacom:

[BET] 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.

You can read Debra Lee’s full memo regarding Stephen Hill’s exit from BET BELOW:

Dear BET Team,

I want to let you know that Stephen Hill, President of Programming for BET Networks has decided to step down from his role.

Stephen joined Viacom in 1995, and then BET in 1999, serving as President of Music Programming and Specials before taking on the role as President of Programming.

Stephen has earned a reputation as one of the leading creative minds in television and music. His contributions to the team have been invaluable as we worked together to successfully reinvigorate our brand.

Who could ever forget THE Prince Tribute, James Brown and Michael Jackson, Beyoncé & Kendrick Lamar? This list can go on and on. The incredible “awww yeahhh” moments Stephen has created during his 18 years literally are too many to mention.

I recently told the story of the first time I saw Stephen dancing in the aisle with red pants! I knew that was the spirit needed to take BET to the next level. And that was exactly what he did. His programming vision helped to create 106 & Park, The BET Awards, The Hip Hop Awards and hits such as Real Husbands of Hollywood, the amazing success of The New Edition Story and many, many more.

Most importantly, Stephen has been a trusted colleague and friend to many of us. We are fortunate to have enjoyed his service, creativity and laughter for so many years. I can’t imagine this ride without his energy, passion and love of BET.

Thank you Stephen for every awesome and magical moment, I know this won’t be our last dance. I know your dedication to BET will still live on in everyone you’ve touched over the years.

Please join me in thanking Stephen for all the love and support he has given BET over the course of his remarkable career.

Let’s wish him well in his next adventure.

Best,

Debi

 

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