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BET and MTV Networks very quietly soft-launched Centric, a new basic-cable network aimed at African-American adults, on Monday.

BET is rebranding its nearly 32 million subscriber BET J network under the Centric moniker, which will target African-American viewers with music and lifestyle programming, according to Centric general manager Paxton Baker.

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The BET and MTV Networks venture was first announced this past April during BET’s upfront presentation to advertisers. Both programmers are owned by Viacom.

BET J (formerly BET on Jazz) has deals with such key distributors as DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems.

During the upfront, BET executives projected the network would have 45 million viewers at launch. At the time, sources close to network said that Centric would also inherit the lion’s share of subscribers from MTV digital channel VH1 Soul to meet its announced distribution goals.

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But BET Networks president and chief operating officer Scott Mills told Multichannel News that Centric — handled by MTV Networks’ affiliate-sales team, but otherwise run by BET — would instead work with affiliates to reach 45 million subscribers by 2010.

“We’re pretty confident that as long as the product does well and we work closely with our affiliate partners, people will be optimistic about the network,” Mills said. “We don’t think our distribution will have to come from another place.”

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