Black History Goes On Demand

Black History Goes On Demand

Distributors are turning to video on demand to distribute a robust lineup of Black History Month-themed content.

Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV is making history this February by offering for the first time a package of free, cable network-provided on-demand programming promoting Black History Month, while the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing for the third year will team with both networks and cable operators to offer its own free on-demand selections of themed movies, specials and documentaries targeting African-Americans.

Distributors say combining Black History Month programming under one on-demand umbrella allows for better packaging and marketing of targeted programming to an African-American viewer who views on-demand content in high percentages than viewers from other groups.


About 36% of African-American viewers use alternative platforms, including on-demand services, to view video content, compared to 25% of non-Hispanic White consumers, according to Horo witz Associates’ State of Cable and Digital Media.

FiOS TV will feature more than 50 titles from such networks as ESPN, which will offer episodes from its “30 for 30” documentary franchise; BET, which will include episodes of its new series Real Husbands of Hollywood; and select music videos from Music Choice.

The free on-demand offering also provides an opportunity for networks to reach African-American viewers who otherwise might not tune into their channel, FiOS content acquisitions and programming director Mike Pannacciulli said.

FiOS has promoted Black History Month- related programming from individual networks in the past, but such efforts didn’t serve the needs and desires of viewers that use video on demand to watch content at the times most convenient for them, FiOS director of content strategy and acquisition Joe Lawson said.

“You can offer content on different channels, but the fact of the matter is, it’s difficult for customers to internalize all the content available when they don’t have a reference point to look to see all the programming that targeted to them,” he said. “What we’ve discovered is that for Black History Month and other celebratory content, VOD is a great place to aggregate and showcase content. They can go and pick and choose content at their convenience.”

Pannacciulli said the package, while targeted to African-Americans, is expected to also draw other viewers as well. The telco also hopes to build viewer familiarity with the on-demand platform, which could translate to a future increase in transactional video purchases.

“This content would normally be in network folders, but if you’re not familiar with [Investigation Discovery], you might not look there for Black History Month programming,” he said. “Viewers might be attracted to such programming if it is offered in that themed folder, and hopefully we’re introducing on demand to consumers who haven’t used it before.”


The concept of offering free on demand Black History Month programming isn’t new to cable operators, who — through the efforts of the CTAM Advanced Cable Solutions Consortium — have been offering nearly 100 hours of Black History Month-themed content for the the past two years. This year’s offering will include more than 60 free and premium titles including Lifetime’s original movie Betty & Coretta, HBO’s documentary Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals and Paramount Pictures’ Oscar-nominated movie Fight.

Angie Britt, CTAM’s vice president of advanced products, said the Black History Month offering is the group’s most popular and successful diversity-themed, on demand programming stunt in terms of usage, although CTAM would not reveal specific performance figures.

“The topic itself is a no brainer for us given the quality of content available,” she said. “All of our content providers and our MSOs are culturally sensitive and they support this particular multicultural initiative every year."