Forum: Diversity in Urban Markets: Whos Mining the Gold


The National Association of Minorities In
Communications' Urban Markets Conference is entering its ninth year this September.

Each year, leaders in urban marketing converge upon New
York and the Walter Kaitz Foundation Fund-Raising Dinner to give credence to this
conference, which has proven to be a wealth of information with measurable results.

Tom Freston, president of MTV Networks, and Jan Peters,
president of MediaOne, will co-chair the NAMIC conference this year.

With the incredible growth of urban markets, our industry
needs to be ardent supporters of the conference. We cannot take this groundbreaking
conference for granted. The urban consumer is more sophisticated and influential than

Now is not the time to snub them, nor the pot of gold that
they bring to the end of the rainbow.

Let's examine the economic reality of the urban

Urban markets are growing at remarkable rates in the United
States. From 1980 to 1990, Hispanic Americans experienced a 53 percent growth rate -- the
largest of any group in the country.

In 1997, the Hispanic market made up 11 percent of our
population, or 23 million people, and 64 percent were born in the United States and are
part of the popular culture.

In 1989, in Dade County, Fla., alone, Hispanic
Americans' buying power was estimated at $10.2 billion.

Another group of Americans that has experienced notable
growth is Asians, who are at 9.6 percent of our population, and who are expected to double
their rate of growth by the year 2010.

A total of 93 percent of Asian Americans live in urban
areas. Their total annual purchasing power is estimated at $101 billion.

In 1997, African-Americans numbered 23 million in U.S.
population, with estimated buying power of $469 billion. Of this $469 billion, $2.8
billion was spent on cable subscriptions alone.

In light of these statistics, the NAMIC Urban Markets
Conference is of paramount importance to attend. There, some of the best and brightest
minds help us to understand why and how to embrace diversity in a substantive way.

For too long, diversity has been met with indifference.
With the tremendous amount of money spent by urban markets, we need to learn how to deal
in earnest with their needs and how to funnel dollars back into these communities. We
can't treat them with indifference and expect them to embrace us.

Our involvement must go hand-in-hand. There's no way
around it.

In the cable industry, the majority of local ad sales,
pay-per-view and pay television revenue comes from the urban market. The real story will
be in the year 2000, when heavy churn for television viewership is anticipated. But
let's take a more current look at how PPV can be adversely affected.

Over the past year, with the absence of Mike Tyson in
boxing, PPV revenue significantly declined. Buy-rates from other events, like wrestling,
rely heavily on urban markets for baseline support.

Many viewers of these programs can't attend them, and
television is their avenue to the events. For the majority of cable systems, these revenue
sources go straight to the bottom line, so it is imperative that we pay closer attention
to the needs of urban consumers, and not just give them lip service.

We must also attend to these markets more vigorously
because of other competition moving in our direction, such as direct-broadcast satellite
and technology looking at MDUs (multiple-dwelling units). The NAMIC Urban Markets
Conference gives us great insight to accomplish our goals.

Cable's most senior-level managers must play a bigger
role in the Urban Markets Conference experience.

Top executives must grasp the significance of acquiring the
"how to" of tried and true marketing tactics effectively reaching urban
audiences. It is senior staff who determine how marketing dollars are allocated, and it is
senior staff who are accountable for lost

opportunities. That's why, now more than ever,
top-level marketers from every company should also be involved.

Experiencing the conference firsthand gives senior
management a leg up on the competition. They can meet and talk with experts face-to-face
and get answers on the spot.

I'm puzzled each year at why the NAMIC Urban Marketing
Conference is so undervalued. In attending cable conferences throughout the year, this
one, by far, promotes the reality of diversity. With the tremendous amount of revenue
generated from urban markets, it would behoove astute management to get on board with the
conference to find out how to "mine the gold."

Don't sleep on this one. We all need this information
going into the new millennium. The urban market isn't waiting for us to catch up.
They're on the fast track, and they won't slow down. If cable doesn't get
the urban market, be sure that other technologies will. See you at the NAMIC conference!

Curtis Symonds is executive vice president, affiliate sales
and marketing at Black
Entertainment Television. Note:All
statistics gathered from the Department of Health
and Human Services, Kang &
Lee Advertising
, the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic Business magazine,Claritas
The Wall Street Journal.