flight to cable
Study: Black and
Hispanic viewing grows apace
By Kevin Downey
The past few weeks may have seemed a lot like
the good old days for the broadcast networks with unexpectedly strong
ratings for the Olympics, the Super Bowl and even last nightís Grammy
Broadcast TV would appear to be living up to its legacy as
the all-inclusive mass medium.
But that is in fact less and less the case.
A new cable industry study reveals not only that the
flight of viewers to cable continues apace but that African-Americans and
Hispanics are very much a part of that flight.
The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau reports that the
homes with cable TV has gone up 15 percent among African-Americans and 14
percent among Hispanics in the past five years, compared to an overall growth
rate of just under 15 percent.
The trend is of special significance because both groups tend
to be heavier TV watchers than whites.
This trend only makes sense, says Stacey Lynn Koerner, senior vice president and director of broadcast research at
Initiative Media North America.
"Cable television is a place for all of us to find programming that
more readily connects with who we are individually," explains Koerner, who
is completing her own study on ethnic viewing trends.
"The more options you have, the more opportunity there is to
find something that you personally connect to."
About 75 percent of African-American homes now have cable,
which is comparable to the overall penetration rate of just over 78 percent.
Nearly 62 percent of Hispanic homes have cable TV.
The importance of television--including cable--as a medium to
reach ethnic populations is not lost on media buyers.
Both African-Americans and Hispanics watch more television than
On average, nearly 70 percent of African-American homes and 64
percent of Hispanics are tuned into television during primetime, compared to
61 percent of white homes.
More troubling for the broadcast networks is that the share of viewing
for the six major networks is lower among
The share of viewing for the English-language broadcast
networks among whites is 55 percent compared to 53 percent among African-Americans, based on Nielsen data from November 2000.
The share among whites for cable TV is 41 percent compared to
44 percent for African-Americans.
Although the share of cable viewing among Hispanics is far
lower, at 29 percent, only 20 percent watch the six broadcast networks, on
Almost 30 percent of Hispanics watch Univision and Telemundo in
"With African-Americans, itís more of a cultural story,"
"With Hispanics, you have cultural content on top of a
language, so obviously there is less of a crossover appeal on the broadcast
The fact that African-Americans and Hispanics are drifting
to cable and Spanish-language networks is especially problematic for the
broadcast networks, since both populations represent strong growth
opportunities. Both groups are growing faster than non-ethnic Americans.
Already, African-Americans and Hispanics together account
for roughly one out of five people in the U.S., a statistic that makes them
especially attractive to advertisers.
Moreover, while the total population grew by 11 percent in
the past decade, the Hispanic population grew by 47 percent, according to the
Hispanics now account for 12.1 percent of the population and
are projected to grow by another 14 percent over the next five years.
African-Americans number 35.8 million and account for 12.9
percent of the population.
February 28, 2002 © 2002 Media Life
-Kevin Downey is a
staff writer for Media Life.
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