Black Is Beautiful


During the Nov. 10
second-season premiere
of We TV’s breakout reality-series
hit Braxton Family
, Evelyn Braxton was
adamant that the television
success that she and her five talented daughters
experienced over the past year would not
go to their heads and cause a rift between siblings.
“[Success] can divide a family and I’m
not having it,” a forceful Braxton said.

Yet the success of shows like Braxton Family
, Basketball Wives, The Real Housewives of
, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, Love That
and The Game are helping cable networks
and advertisers unite in their effort to
reach one of the industry’s emerging demographics:
African-American women.


Networks such as We, VH1, Bravo, TBS and
of course TV One and BET are courting influential
18-to-49-year-old African-American
female viewers — who watch more television
than any other demographic — with mostly reality-
based programming prominently featuring
black women like the Braxton clan. We TV
has even dedicated a new night of original programming
to shows aimed at African-American
females, featuring Braxton Family Values and
the upcoming reality series Mary, Mary, based
on the lives of the famed gospel duo.

Advertisers are
also targeting
the demo, whose
members have
emerged as the
primary decision-makers for an
consumer base
whose buying power
is projected to
reach $1.1 trillion
by 2015, according
to Nielsen.

They don’t tune
into just any programming
on the
cable dial, however.
women are very
discerning about
what they watch,
almost exclusively choosing shows with black
women in prominent roles that mirror their own
lives and life experiences.

From Dr. Melanie Barnett’s difficult decision
to put her medical career on hold to become a
football player’s wife on BET’s top rated dramedy
The Game, to diva-esque Tamar Braxton’s efforts
to launch a solo music career to the chagrin
of her talented sisters on Braxton Family Values,
African-American women know what they like
and watch it in abundance.

“Television plays a very important role in
their lives,” TV One CEO Wonya Lucas said.
“TV is more than just a companion. It’s how
they gain knowledge and a place where they
can see themselves in different situations
that enrich their lives and engages them. That
equals a valuable audience.”


It’s no secret that African-American viewers
are heavy TV users — they watch 40% more
television than any other group, according
to Cynthia Perkins-Roberts, vice president for multicultural marketing for the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, which recently launched an African-American-based consumer research website,

What’s not well-known is that African-American women far outpace all demos in
television viewing. They watch an average of
25 hours of television per month — 25% more
than white women, the next-highest category,
and more than twice as much as Latino women,
according to Nielsen.

African-American women are also emerging
as an increasingly affluent base of financial
decision-makers, a category advertisers covet.
They head up nearly half of all homes within
the black community, according to the 2010 Census, and view themselves
as the primary decision-makers across virtually
all consumer segments, according to Nielsen.

Last year, cable-TV networks generated the
lion’s share of national advertising dollars
aimed at African-American audiences — an
ad spend that was up 17% from 2009. Much
of that gain was due to the growing advertiser
appeal of female African-American viewers,
according to Nielsen.

“Women in particular have become a valuable
target, and as advertisers become more sophisticated,
they’ve looked at parsing segments
of the audience — if you can meet the significant
needs of the advertiser by providing programming
to that segment, then you would benefit
from it,” media buyer Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming for Katz Media
Group, said.

Valuable, that is, for those networks that have
successfully targeted the demo with content
that reflects African-American women’s lives
and images on-screen.

“The audience connects with the characters
and connects with the shows — they feel
like they know them,” Jeff Olde,
executive vice president of
original programming and
production for VH1, said.

Four of VH1’s reality programs
are among the 10 most-watched
series among African-American
women in 2011. Leading the way:
Two iterations of the Basketball
reality franchise — about
mostly African-American women
who have been romantically
linked to pro basketball players
— and scripted series Single Ladies,
which follows three multiethnic
BFFs who have differing
views on love and relationships.
The other is La La’s Full Court
, about La La (Mrs. Carmelo)

Olde said his network is focused
on giving African-American
women what they want
to see, so it has quickly turned
around new seasons of Basketball
— now in production
on its fourth season after debuting
in 2010 — to keep the audience
tuning in. Single Ladies will also return for
its sophomore campaign in 2012.

While Bravo isn’t specifically targeting African-American women, it is certainly aware of
its appeal for the group, especially with its Real
franchise and The Real Housewives
of Atlanta
. The series, which prominently features
several affluent Hotlanta-based African-
American women, is the second-most watched
show in the demographic category, according
to Nielsen.

“There are more and more African-American
women holding the purse strings and becoming
more affluent, so you go directly to that
segment, as we would toward other segments,”
Ellen Stone, senior vice president of marketing
for Bravo Media, said.

In November, Bravo will launch Chef Roblé
& Co.
, which takes a behind the scenes look at
famed cook Roblé Ali and his Brooklyn-based,
family-run catering business. The show will
premiere after Real Housewives of Atlanta, giving
Bravo a two-hour
block of programming
on Sunday nights
targeted specifically
to African-American

We TV will take its
commitment to African-American women
a step further by
offering year-round
original content on
Thursday nights targeted
specifically to
the demo. Its Thursday
primetime programming
began Nov. 10 with the
season-two premiere
of Braxton Family Values, which has a rare
19-episode commitment, according to We TV
president Kim Martin.

Braxton Family Values, which documents
the often turbulent relationship R&B singer
Toni Braxton shares with her mother and five
sisters, turned in a network record-setting performance
during its second season launch,
drawing 1.2 million viewers and 756,000 African-American females.

“We realized that with Braxton Family Values
we’re reaching an underserved audience
of African-American women, and there just
isn’t enough programming on television today
to speak to the audience,” Martin said, adding
that African-American women over-indexed on
viewership for We TV’s various wedding shows.

The network will follow Braxton Family Values
on Thursday nights in 2012 with a new series
featuring Erica and Tina Campbell, who make
up the famed gospel group “Mary, Mary.”

For networks like TV One and BET, targeting
African-American women is nothing new.

With African-American women making
up 60% of the audience, BET understands fully
how important and influential the demo is,
BET Networks CEO Debra Lee said. Driven by
African-American women, BET’s football-themed
scripted series TheGame remains the
most watched comedy series in cable history
and the most watched show among the demo
in 2011, according to Nielsen.

The Game
, cancelled by The CW after three
years on broadcast TV and picked up by BET,
will begin its second season this January with
a 26-episode order, Lee said.

In 2012 BET will look to further draw African-American women through the crime and justice
genre with the production of an original whodunit
mystery movie starring Lorenz Tate, set
for the first quarter, Lee said.


TV One will also tap the crime drama, greenlighting
Find Our Missing, a documentary reality
series about missing African-Americans
around the country.

As for competition from more mainstream
networks, Lucas said that there’s more than
enough room for quality programming targeted
to African-American women.

“I think African-American women are more
represented on television today, but I think there
will always be a need for having a lot of African-American programming on television, because
we are the bulk of TV viewership,” Lucas said.