The Cable Show 2012: Cable Aims To Market to Black Consumer

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Boston - With its official launch scheduled for next month, new cable network Aspire appears poised to address a much maligned but fast growing advertising segment - the African-American community.
Aspire was one of a handful of minority networks that were established in the wake of Comcast's NBC Universal partnership with General Electric Co. One of the conditions set by the Federal Communications Commission in approving the deal was that Comcast commit to adding eight minority-owned or partially owned-and-operated networks - including four African- American targeted networks. Aspire - co-owned by former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson - was one of four networks announced in February. Revolt, a music network co-owned by hip-hop legend Sean "P Diddy" Combs and Hispanic-themed El rey and Baby First Americas - were the first minority-owned networks chosen by the cable giant.
At a panel discussion at The Cable Show Monday entitled In Plain Sight: Effective marketing to Black Consumers, Aspire general manager Paul Butler said that although his network won't be the first on the block - BET, TV One and centric have targeted African-American viewers for years - there is room for more.
Butler said that what sets Aspire apart is that it will promote a positive image of African Americans and will target young, college educated viewers. Aside from Comcast, Butler said by the end of this month Aspire would have spoken to every major distributor, adding that more carriage deals are to come.
The time appears to be right for another African American targeted network. According to Horowitz and Associates vice president of marketing and business development Adriana Waterston, 37% of African Americans believe TV is doing a good job representing the races properly, with 25% saying that TV is doing a poor job. The numbers get worse when asked if TV is representing races accurately - only 33% of this surveyed by Horowitz believe TV is doing a good job, with 27% giving TV poor marks.
Advertisers are beginning to respond. Butler said that Aspire signed on three advertisers for its launch - L'Oreal, Nationwide Insurance and Chrysler Corp. - and hopefully more will follow.
"We're meeting with a number of key advertisers in all of the segments that matter," Butler said.
Waterston said that African-Americans have been largely ignored by programmers who believe they are targeted sufficiently through mainstream media. But according to Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau vice president, multicultural and emerging markets Cynthia Perkins-Roberts, African-Americans are a huge untapped market,
The African-American population at 43 million has been growing at double the rate of non-Hispanic Whites since 1990 and is expected to reach 45.5 million by 2017, said Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau vice president, multicultural and emerging markets Cynthia Perkins-Roberts. The segment also has enormous buying power, spending about $946.6 billion in 2010 and estimated to rise to $1.3 trillion by 2017.
African-Americans are also becoming increasingly more educated - the number of college graduates (bachelor's degrees or higher) has risen 148% since 1990.
That has led to higher paying jobs and the rise of the black middle class. CAB estimates that there were about 5 million African American households with annual incomes of $50,000 or more in 2010 (a 358% increase since 1990) and 1.5 million African-American homes with annual incomes of $100,000 or more (a 128% increase since 1990).
"Everyone is talking about the decline of the American middle class, in the black community it's just beginning," Perkins-Roberts said.