For the first time ever, A.C. Nielsen’s National Audience Demographic Report has charted blacks in a separate category, a move that ultimately could change the way advertisers spend money on TV.
According to Pluria Marshall, chairman of the National Black Media Coalition, this data will alter the advertising industry’s traditional presumption that blacks and whites watch the same shows and can be reached the same way. “It is significant that they will be getting the truth about black consumer tastes,” he says.
The addition, which appeared in Nielsen’s September NAD and which VARIETY obtained exclusively, comes after two years of discussions with and prompting by advertising agencies and the black community.
“The NAD reports are the lifeline for the decision-making process by programmers, sellers and buyers,” says David Woolfson, VP, manager business development at Nielsen.
The reports’ detail and immediacy, he adds, may convince ad agencies to spend more than a “token” amount of money on minority advertising. “It will contribute to a change in planning of how dollars will be [spent].”
The report says black households watch 69 hours of TV a week, 47% more than the 47-hour average of the combined general population – which includes black viewership. (These numbers are almost identical to data collected from Nielsen special studies over the past two years.)
The report also reveals that:
* Black women 35-64 and black teenagers 12-17 watch the most TV compared with the rest of the country (63% and 62% more, respectively).
* On weeknights from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m, blacks watch 74% more TV than the average household.
* Weeknights 1 to 2:30 a.m. blacks watch 128% more TV than the average household.
* Weekdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., adult black males watch 97% more TV than the average adult male.
* Saturday mornings, black households watch 74% more TV than the average household.
* In primetime, black households watch 15% to 24% more TV than the average household. Those figures are 15% to 17% higher Sunday through Thursday, 23% higher on Friday and 24% on Saturday.
“There is no scientific data explaining these trends, but we have to assume that economic conditions play a part here,” says Doug Alligood, VP special markets at BBDO.
Alligood says, for example, that the high weekend-night viewership may be because more blacks can not afford other, more expensive entertainment options.
The numbers in the September NAD also prove that shows with all-white casts do well when slotted as a lead-in or lead-out to shows with black stars.
On Sundays, for example, Fox’s 7 to 9 p.m. lineup features three shows with black actors, with one non-black casted show sandwiched in between: “True Colors” at 7 p.m. drew a 19.4 average rating with blacks, 234% higher than its overall 5.8 rating (all figures are for new episodes through Sept. 29); “In Living Color” at 8 p.m. notched a 39.3,187% higher than its overall 13.7; and “Roc” at 8:30 rolled to a 32.8,238% higher than its overall 9.7. Meanwhile, sandwiched in at 7:30, “Parker Lewis” scored a 15.7,185% higher than its overall 5.5.
On NBC, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” earned a 37.6 rating with blacks, 174% higher than its overall 13.7, and its lead-out, “Blossom” grabbed a 30.1,145% higher than its overall 12.3, despite its white cast.
One mistake the new NADs will correct, Alligood says, is the belief in the ad industry that since blacks watch so much TV, merely buying hit shows will reach the desired black audience. As the report proved, Alligood explains, many hit shows – such as ABC’s “Roseanne” or CBS’s “Murphy Brown” and “Designing Women” – had lower ratings with black audiences than with the general population.
The reason for the low viewership, he adds, is that “there is very little recognition that blacks exist” in some of these hit primetimes shows. This, he explains, turns off black viewers who want to see a world that acknowledges blacks, even if they are not the stars. (He adds that the one black star in “Designing Women,” Meshach Taylor, is frequently “a subject of ridicule.”)
Note of caution
Steve Goodman, VP media director at Uniworld Group, cautions that while the report does show some well-established trends, advertisers “can’t see all black families as having the same viewing habits; you can’t generalize.”
And on another front, although the recent census showed the Hispanic population growing faster than the black population, Nielsen’s Woolfson doubts they can include Hispanic data in NADs because language differences require a specially designed service. However, he says, separate Hispanic data from a national sample will be provided by early 1993.