BET Jams is an American digital cable television network controlled by BET Networks and owned by Viacom Media Networks. The channel features hip-hop and urban contemporary music videos. The network, formerly known as MTV Jams, was rebranded under the BET banner on October 5, 2015.
The channel debuted in 2002, replacing MTVX, a network that focused on hard rock and heavy metal which debuted on August 1, 1998. The replacement of MTVX by MTV Jams was explained by the network as being based on demographic trends and industry data that there was a lower demand for a channel devoted to hard rock and heavy metal than there was for hip-hop, rap and R&B; as a result, Viacom management made the decision to launch a new music video network over MTVX's channel space. The network's name was taken from a two-hour daily program block on MTV, called MTV Jams, which ran from 1992 to 2000 and was also the general branding for urban music broadcast on the flagship channel.
After its launch, MTV Jams' playlist became predictable and less random than it originally seemed. The new videos that were in heavy rotation were usually played once per hour or once per every two hours. MTV Jams was the last remaining MTV network in the United States to use MTV's original Kabel font for its music video credit tags, which the main MTV network discontinued in October 2007. MTV Jams switched to the font style used by MTV Hits and rarely by MTV itself in May 2011.
The network's logo had a minor readjustment in February 2010 to remove the Music Television tagline and a small quarter of the logo in line with the official rebranding of all MTV networks. The network had its first full-fledged change in imaging on April 13, 2012, in line with the March 26 re-imaging of MTV Hits. A new logo and imaging was introduced on that date, featuring all text in bold Helvetica, including a minimal-style logo with the 2010 MTV logomark next to the word "Jams".
The network was rebranded as BET Jams on October 5, 2015, to better align with BET. The channel continues to play hip-hop and urban contemporary videos as MTV's mainline networks, including MTV itself and MTV2, draw down their dependence on them. With the rebrand, MTV Live (formerly Palladia) along with MTVU remain as the only MTV-branded 24/7 video formatted networks with a music focus. When MTV Jams was replaced with BET Jams, MTV Live started a MTV Jams block which airs late at night, with reruns airing during the day.
The channel runs on an automated eight-hour wheel schedule that repeats three times a day which starts at 6 a.m. Eastern, with resets at 2 and 10 p.m. ET. Traditional direct response and promotional advertising and other interstitial programming is also carried on the network, along with various theme programming to promote album releases or other happenings in the music world. Beginning in the summer of 2004, MTV Jams added some variety to its programming. Along with MTV Hits, MTV Jams began to play more obscure videos, as well as a larger selection of older videos, than it had previously played. The automated wheel remained with the changeover to BET, though segments connected to MTV or MTV.com are expected to be discontinued.
Currently, the breadth of BET Jams' playlist surpasses that of BET Soul, with several hundred more videos played on a regular basis. Most of the urban music videos that have ever aired on BET, MTV and VH1 are seen on MTV Jams, as well as many more obscure urban videos that cannot be seen on any other Viacom-owned network, though usually the channel does not air music preceding the 1989 premiere of Yo! MTV Raps, except for a few small cases. The relaunch as BET Jams was tied to the 2015 BET Hip Hop Awards held nine days later, along with promotion for nominated artists and songs.
The network has a weekly "Jam of the Week" which is announced on Sundays, with the video chosen receiving extended plays throughout the week.
MTV Jams aired a frequent live game show, Hood Fab, hosted by Buttahman; in which two contestants (normally one popular hip-hop artist and one random contestant off of the street, although there have been games where two artists went against each other) are asked questions about hip-hop. The contests take place in various cities. The one who answers the most questions correctly gets a bonus question, to which a prize is awarded to that contestant. The artist normally just receives bragging rights and the "Official Hood Fab tube socks" while the random contestant will receive a prize of higher value as well as the tube socks.
The channel also periodically aired a short-form program called The Parker Report, hosted by Erik Parker; in each episode, Parker featured hip-hop artists, normally under a theme (for instance, one episode featured the Grand Hustle team of T.I., Alfamega, and Big Kuntry King) to talk about issues in hip-hop. In the aforementioned episode, the four discussed the autotune "T-Pain" effect and about how he rediscovered it. The panel came to a conclusion about the issue discussed; for instance, the guests and host came to the conclusion to, when using the autotune, either "shout out" to T-Pain or feature him on the record.
Occasionally, the network has aired air special, unannounced alphabetical marathons of music videos by artist name, usually around holiday periods, or videos themed around lists such as most popular of the year, nominated for certain awards or that of an artist around the release of a new album.
From time to time, the network is also known to include special themed blocks of programming, for example, an hour of a specific artist or label's videos, an hour block of 1990s gangsta rap, or a string of reggae-style videos. These are always unannounced and spontaneous for viewers, in the vein of MTV2's original format.
In the fall of 2004, MTV Jams presented a week of shows titled "Takeover", where artists were invited to host a day of programming. Artists included Usher, Kanye West, Lil Jon, Nelly, and Fat Joe (a format eventually picked up by competitor Fuse as the network drastically reduced their original programming due to budget issues). Each artist played their favorite videos and their own videos. Additionally, MTV specials such as Diary and live performance footage was played that related to the artists. This may have marked the first time the channel has ever aired any non-music video programming. In March 2005, MTV Jams invited 50 Cent to its studios to introduce his and his posse's music videos, as well as to play some of his favorite old school videos. He also spoke briefly between videos about his newest album and about his musical inspirations. At the time, these two specials were the closest to a VJ-presented program to ever appear on the channel.
During the summer of 2005, MTV Jams debuted a new, larger logo in order to promote special programming called "The Fab 5 of Summer '05" that was running on the channel for the duration of that season. The "Fab 5" were five up-and-coming hip-hop artists that the channel placed a heavy emphasis on during the entire summer; these artists were Juelz Santana, Da Back Wudz, Young Jeezy, Tony Yayo, and Paul Wall. Da Back Wudz, Young Jeezy, Tony Yayo, and Paul Wall came into the MTV Jams studio to speak about their careers and to play blocks of their favorite videos. These blocks were rotated pretty heavily, sometimes several times a day, as such the summer of 2005 had arguably became the period of MTV Jams' history that has seen the most redundant and least varied playlist to date.
That same summer, MTV Jams moved one step closer toward its high-budget, show-based sister networks MTV and VH1 when it briefly aired documentary style programs on the hip-hop themed and MTV-produced movie Hustle and Flow.
BET Jams is available on the digital tiers of most cable providers, but was not available on Dish Network until 2016 (it remains unavailable on DirecTV). This is an artifact of the network's former editorial and operational control under MTV/Viacom Media Networks, where the channel was part of the digital cable-exclusive MTV/Nickelodeon Digital Suite.
Time Warner Cable previously did not carry the network except on systems it owned that were formerly operated by the now-defunct Adelphia Communications, systems where previous contracts with MTV Networks are required to be honored, and Bright House Networks, of which Time Warner Cable formerly had a stake in. This resulted in the network being unavailable in New York City outside of areas serviced by Cablevision; TWC is the major cable provider for Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens. MTV Jams and its sister networks were added in the summer of 2012 as part of a wider agreement between Viacom and Time Warner Cable to allow access to its networks over TWC's tablet applications, along with its mobile apps.