Monday, September 30th, 2013



Prime Time Up Double-Digits in HH (+20%), P18-49 (27%) and P25-54 (25%).

Delivers More African American Adults than FX, TBS, Syfy, MTV, Tru, Bravo
and 82 Other Ad-Supported Cable Networks.

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Cynopsis Media Presents: The African American Viewing Audience

By Meredith Berlin

No segment of the American population watches more television than African Americans. Nearly 42 million strong, more than half under the age of 35, with a proven track record of being the cultural trendsetters in this country, this demo has caught the attention of networks, which are now more serious than ever about engaging the African American audience.

ABC‘s Scandal, one of the top ten shows in the country, is also the second most popular program with African Americans, topped only by the 2013 BET Awards. Scandal and FOX‘s American Idol, in fact, are the only two shows on the traditional broadcast networks (FOX, CBS, NBC and ABC) that perform as well as those on networks devoted specifically to black viewers.

The reason is simple: African American audiences want to watch shows with characters that reflect their culture and lifestyle, and the best place to find that is on cable outlets BET and TV One, and on one new broadcast network: Bounce. Those nets offer a variety of original programming and rebroadcasts that cater to their audience. As BET’s Michelle Bailey, SVP Corporate Research explains, “African-Americans enjoy seeing images of themselves reflected on television, so it’s not surprising that many of the top cable programs among African-Americans have predominantly African-American casts.”

Bounce’s COO Jonathan Katz says Bounce is the fastest-growing African American network by any metric. But, just as important, he says, is that “our success story is really a story of disruptive innovation.” Disruptive because only one in four African American households subscribe to cable or satellite. As a broadcast network, Bounce is available in 87 markets and reaches 80 million households. “Because of that, Bounce drives faster ratings growth and will ultimately prove to be more valuable to advertisers than cable alone,” says Katz.

While launching a broadcast network is always a risk, Katz went into the venture with a certain degree of comfort, for two reasons: First, the network was founded by two stalwarts in the African American community: Martin Luther King III and Ambassador Andrew Young. Second, says Katz, “We knew that African Americans were vastly under-served and hungered for more programming that was engaging, positive and reflective of their own black experience. There was an obvious opportunity to create the first black broadcast network.”

Thanks to its growth, Bounce is making a significant investment next year with five new original programs including My Crazy Roommate, a sitcom in the Two Broke Girls mold, and Step Wars, an unscripted reality series that follows some of the top black sororities and fraternities.

This month Bounce is premiering BRKDWN, a look at pop culture through an urban lens. BRKDWN is in partnership with Alchemy, one of YouTube’s premiere networks. “We’re bringing an online series to linear television,” says Katz. “You can imagine both cross promotional and ad sales going back and forth between those two shows.”




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While Bounce is still relatively young, TV ONE (tagline– “where black life unfolds”) is coming up on its tenth anniversary, a fact that SVP Maureen Guthman attributes to the net’s secret sauce. “Some clusters loom larger than others for us,” she remarks. “Drama and comedy are both really big, as are competition shows, sports and news. And we over-index in reality programming.”

It’s specifically the news arena that Guthman believes shows a dearth of black representation. Therefore, TV ONE will be launching its own news program, News One Now, with Roland Martin, that will cover African American interests from their point of view. As an example, Guthman points to the new Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet, which stars an interracial couple, (Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad). “That’s something we would share with our viewers in a way that no other network would,” she says.

Guthman is especially proud of TV One’s R&B Divas, a reality program that features African American women from different walks of life with a common talent–singing. It’s the most successful show on the network- it scored a .83 rating with adults 25-54 during its September 4th reunion show. “Some of these women are famous and some of them are housewives but they’re all unbelievably talented,” Guthman says. The show will also be giving birth to a new series, R&B Divas, L.A.

BET’s Bailey points out that while there are now many more networks designed to appeal to African Americans, BET is still the number-one destination for the demo. What’s surprising, however, is that the network is also garnering many viewers who aren’t black. “The top two sitcoms on cable TV that all adults in the 18-49 age range are watching are on BET – Real Husbands of Hollywood and The Game,” she notes.

Additionally, what resonates with black men is different from what attracts black women. “Real Husbands of Hollywood is hugely popular with African-American men, while Scandal, which is rebroadcast on BET, is number one with women,” explains Bailey.

Then there’s OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s network, which has seen tremendous growth in the last year. Not only has the two and a half year old net become profitable for the first time this year, but it has also seen a whopping 167% growth in African American female viewership in the last year. Programming has been key. Winfrey teamed with Tyler Perry, one of Hollywood’s most successful movie producers, to offer some strong scripted series, such as The Haves and the Have Nots, and Love Thy Neighbor.

With a core audience of 25-54 year olds and plenty of advertising dollars being spent by automotive, insurance, beauty and food companies, these three networks are reaping big benefits. L’Oreal, PepsiCo, Hershey, and Procter & Gamble have all committed dollars to BET. Among TV ONE’s many advertisers are Ford and Lexus. Dennis Ray, EVP of Ad Sales at Bounce, points out that at their first upfront earlier this year, they saw their core advertisers expand from 10 to 40 with automotive, fast food, pharmaceutical and retail among the sectors represented. And of course, there was Bounce’s new original series that launched in June, Forever Jones Presented by Walmart.

Still, according to a recent report released by Nielsen in collaboration with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, of the $75 billion spent on media advertising last year, only $2.24 of it was focused on black audiences. Yet African Americans have a current buying power of $1 trillion, projected to be $1.3 trillion in four years.  “Black businesses, agencies and media continue to wrestle with this disparity,” reports Nielsen.

Some ad sources have been frustrated that more companies are not advertising on African American targeted programming. They say their clients don’t see the point in spending the dollars if they can still capture the African American viewer on shows like the Super Bowl, NBA Playoffs, or Scandal. In its special report on African American consumers, Nielsen warns against this strategy. African Americans are loyal consumers and a company’s ability to “understand the Black experience and cultural nuances that resonate with them” will be a company that finds a customer who is more receptive to messaging and “will feel more valued.”

Regardless, African Americans will continue to grow in their representation on TV, especially in shows that tell good stories. As programmers gain a better understanding of this diverse, attuned and growing population, offerings geared to their interest are bound to expand. TV One’s Guthman describes the African American audience best: “Yes, we can sometimes be argumentative, but we can also revel in the art of sisterhood. We can be nerdy sometimes. In the end, we can – and are – a lot of things.”

Meredith Berlin

Roberta Caploe: Editorial Director
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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