Aaron Rahsaan Thomas joins Kenya Barris and Rashida Jones to create BET Studios

The current USC professor’s newest venture caters specifically to Black content creators

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BET’s newest venture caters to some of the most influential people in the media world, Black creators. As seen on the majority of popular apps such as TikTok and Twitter, Black content creators are some of the most innovative people in the industry. From popular dances, to fashion and lingo, Black creators are at the forefront of nearly every viral trend. BET Studios plans to amplify Black creators by providing ownership and creative control.

The main goal of BET Studios is to provide equity ownership to Black creators in the TV and Film industry. Led by Aisha Summers-Burke and partners Kenya Barris, Rashida Jones and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, this venture proves to be a force in the entertainment industry.

“There have been many attempts over the years for people of color to empower themselves creatively and have control over content. The difference now is that content is needed more than ever,” said partner Aaron Rahsaan Thomas.

Aaron Rahsaan Thomas has worked in various capacities in the entertainment industry. From a writer’s assistant to a co-developer and executive producer, the current USC adjunct professor brings a plethora of experience and guidance to his newest venture. Thomas expressed how his previous experiences have prepared him for the work he is doing today, “In the professional realm, with every year of experience, with every show that you’re on, it’s certainly been my case that I’ve been able to gain new skill sets.”

In the past, Thomas has helped to create and produce popular shows such as Soul Food and The Get Down. He and the other partners plan to use BET Studios to create content that gives creators control over their work.

“In order to have the power to put programs on the air, greenlight access is necessary,” he said. “The future of film for African-American artists and African American gatekeepers relies on whether we can get more people in the position to have ownership over the pathways we use to reach our audiences.”

Over the past year, many have witnessed how creative control is necessary to not only increase the revenue of your brand but in protecting it. “The pro in utilizing social media is that you’re able to get instant feedback, the con of it is there’s a lot of stuff out there,” said Thomas.

Popular Black content creators on social media apps such as TikTok have gone on strike due to several organizations refusing to properly compensate them and the TikTok algorithm purposely excluding them from obtaining more views. After last summer’s racial reckoning, media companies begin to realize the demand for minority content. BET Studios hopes to fill that void and not only aid creators in producing their own content but give them equity ownership while doing so.

BET Studios aims to not only be a safe space for creators but also give creators the opportunity to grow. Thomas gave his advice on how to make sure your projects stand out. “I would say, try to think outside the box. My recommendation would really be make sure you have your craft as tight as it can be,” he said. " Take it to people with professional experience and have them give you notes. You want the first impression to be outstanding so you want it to be at the point where this thing has been tried and tested.”

As the venture evolves, Thomas hopes that the studio can be a force for change and have a strong impact on the entertainment industry. “I really hope that it’s a successful business model,” he said. " I think that something like this for creators of color is going to change the paradigm. For the entire industry, there’s a chance to look at project participation and expand the way stories are and can be told.”