For African-American Viewers, Content Is Key

BET, TV One set to pitch higher viewer engagement to ad buyers

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The big ratings for The Game helped prove what Louis
Carr, president for media sales at BET, has been telling ad
buyers.The Game drew 7.7 million viewers when original episodes
debuted on BET last month, nearly triple the number that used
to tune in when the show was broadcast on the CW.

“We’ve been saying that African-Americans engage more with BET
and our programming than they do anyplace else,” Carr says. “It
really reinforces the passion that people
have for the brand, and the content that
we have on-air and online.”

As the upfront approaches, advertisers
look for ways to target specific audiences.
The question usually arises about
the best way to reach African-Americans,
a large consumer segment that also
watches a lot of television.

By creating more original programming,
cable networks geared for African-
Americans such as BET and TV One are
providing marketers with more options
to match up their messages with attractive
content, says Marissa Nance, who
leads multicultural initiatives for media
agency OMD.

“There’s more and more opportunities
now to reach those consumers in meaningful
ways, as more and more content is
being developed,” Nance says.

Historically, African-Americans have been underserved by TV networks,
but “once they find content that they deem to be of value
and that touches and connects with them, they watch it in droves,”
Nance says, pointing to the massive numbers for The Game on BET,
a network that until recently was largely known for cheap music
videos and comedy specials.

To be sure, there are many general-market shows that attract large
numbers of African-American viewers. For the week of Jan. 17, the
top-rated shows among African-Americans were the NFL conference
championship games, American Idol and Hawaii Five-O, according
to Nielsen.

Nance says that while football pulls big African-American audiences,
“those are not meant to be relevant and contextual toward
the African-American audience . . . what we have to look for is the
environment. And BET and TV One do have a ton of that programming
that you can put your advertising in to reach those consumers.”

Similarly, Carr says you can find a lot of African-American viewers
watching a show like CSI, but “to engage and influence them, to
do the things you want them to do, to buy more products, to buy
more services, you go to those passion points. And those passion
points usually live in those media platforms that really have built
their brands around targeting those specific consumers.”

It’s unclear how much money marketers earmark to reach African-
Americans. “It’s done on a product-by-product, client-by-client basis,
so it’s hard to generalize something like
that,” Nance says.

Carr hopes it is increasing, because
the African-American market is growing
faster than the general market.
When BET makes its upfront pitches,
the network will include a commitment
to scripted programming.

The broadcast-sized numbers for The
overshadowed the strong launch
of a BET original, Let’s Stay Together,
which attracted 4.4 million viewers. “We
are in that genre big-time right now. We
have some new shows that we’re going
to be bringing out, scripted series for the
new upfront,” Carr says.

TV One held its first-ever upfront presentation
in New York last week. It introduced
the new talk-variety series Way Black
and the return of some of the network’s
most popular shows, including Lisa-
Raye: The Real McCoy
and Donald J. Trump Presents The Ultimate Merger.

While TV One’s ratings increased 17% last year, BET’s Carr doesn’t
see them as a major rival.

“To be honest, I don’t view anybody as competition right now because
there is nobody who is doing it in a large manner,” Carr says.
“Is Turner, with the Tyler Perry stuff competition? Not really. That’s
one or two nights a week, versus our five nights a week and 24 hours
a day, so that’s not competition. You look at [TBS]—they have maybe
one or two shows that have African-American talent in the lead or a
co-lead position, so that’s not really competition. You’ve got TV One
out there, and they’re only in 50 million homes and they have very,
very small ratings, so really that’s not competition. So really right
now we’re head and shoulders above everybody else, and I think
everybody sees that.”

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