They Want You! Networks Target African-American Viewers — Especially Black Women

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March 15, 2013 ‐ By Ann Brown
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The stats have remained consistant—African Americans watch more television than other demographics. And finally networks other than BET are trying to lure in black viewers, who make up about 13 percent of TV households and watch almost seven hours of programming per day.

Many networks are seeking out black viewers, especially some of the networks that target women. “These are women who watch a lot of television and don’t find a lot of programming out there,” Lauren Gellert, WEtv’s head of original production, told Yahoo. The network is attracting African-American viewers with such shows as Braxton Family Values; Mary, Mary; and Tamar & Vince, WEtv is adding even more shows that will appeal to black women -- Glam & Gold, with Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross and her husband, NFL player Aaron Ross, premieres this summer.

Over at OWN about 30 percent of its audience is black, says network president Erik Logan. Black women are tuning in particularly to the Saturday night slate, when such programs as the self-help show Iyanla: Fix My Life and reality series Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s air. OWN is also beefing up its slate with the reality series Life with La Toya and Raising Whitley, both coming in April. According to Yahoo, OWN has seen double-digit ratings gains over the last year. And some analysts predict as much as a 10 percent ratings bump when the Tyler Perry sitcoms The Haves and the Have Nots and Love they Neighbor premiere on May 29.

Add in Bounce, Aspire, TV One, and Centric and there is much more programming for African Americans.

“There’s always room for a well-programmed network targeting a specific audience, especially one with such loyalty to television,” BET’s market research chief Matthew Barnhill told the site. Not to mention money to spend. African Americans would rank 15th in spending power if they were a country, says Barnhill. “The media is waking up to this opportunity.”

Don’t count out BET even with the new competition. The network is still number one with black adults 18 to 49 years old(excluding sports).  “We’re repositioning our brand,” says Barnhill. In order to compete with the other networks’ efforts to entice black viewers,  BET isn’t just counting on the successes of the new shows Real Husband of Hollywood — the number one Tuesday telecast among black adults with 2.1 million viewers — and Second Generation Wayans, plus The Game, which returns March 26. But it is looking to continue to add more programming for its core demographic. “Our audience knows that we’re here 24/7 for them,” Barnhill says, while “the networks… dip their foot in the pool one or two nights a week.”

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