Viacom has agreed to purchase BET Holdings, the parent group of successful US cable channel Black Entertainment Television (BET), for $2.43bn in stock and $570m worth of debt.

Based in Washington DC, BET serves the African American market and will continue to be run by Robert L Johnson (chairman and CEO) and Debra Lee (president and COO) who will report directly to Mel Karmazin, president and COO of Viacom.

Johnson now becomes the second largest shareholder in Viacom after its chairman and CEO Sumner Redstone. John Malone's Liberty Media, which owns 35% of BET, will also swap its stake for Viacom stock.

Viacom acquires cable channel BET, which has 63 million subscribers, jazz channel BET on Jazz, BET International, BET Books, and film production outfit BET Movies.

BET joins Viacom's successful stable of cable channels including MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon and its fledgling network UPN. Redstone plans to absorb BET into the group while exploring the same kind of synergies which exist between the other Viacom companies. MTV and Nickelodeon for example have produced hit movies for Paramount including Snow Day, The Rugrats Movie and Wayne's World.