Basic cable generates ratings about 33 percent higher in
black households than in white homes, according to a study
conducted by TN Media Inc.
The study, 'Television Viewing Among Blacks,'
analyzed the viewing habits of black audiences during the fourth quarter of last year. The
research found that the disparities in black and white cable viewing varied widely by
network. Cable averaged a 0.44 rating in black homes, versus a 0.33 in white homes, for
the period 10 a.m. through 1 a.m.
As might be expected, Black Entertainment Television's
ratings were 2,300 percent higher in black homes than in white ones, but networks
including The Prevue Channel, Cartoon Network and WGN-TV each scored black household
ratings twice the size of their white household ratings, the study found.
Based on Nielsen Media Research data, the study also found
that black households in general watch more basic cable and pay cable than their white
counterparts. For example, in black homes, cable averaged a 24.4 rating and 37 share in
primetime, the study found, compared with a 20.7 rating and 35 share in primetime in white
The findings were even more dramatic for pay cable. In
black homes, pay cable averaged a 6.4 rating, or a 10 share, while in white homes, it only
did a 3.2 rating, or a 5 share, according to the study.
Steve Sternberg, TN Media's senior partner of media
resources, cautioned against looking at the study's findings regarding black viewing
of cable too simplistically.
'You can't really look at cable as an
entity,' Sternberg said. 'You have to look at the individual pieces. The big
[cable] networks drive the average.'
For example, networks such as TBS Superstation, Turner
Network Television and USA Network -- which averaged ratings 43 percent to 84 percent
greater in black homes than in white ones -- air a lot of movies, Sternberg pointed out.
And the study found that 'blacks tend to watch more movies than whites' on
television, he said, which is one reason why they are tuning into those three cable
There was one constant, according to the study. Nickelodeon
on average was the top-rated cable network in both black and white homes. Nick posted a
1.67 household rating from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.in black homes, 23 percent greater
than the 1.36 rating that it garnered in white homes.
In terms of Nick and Cartoon's stellar ratings with
black viewers, Sternberg noted that blacks watch more animated shows on Saturday mornings
than whites, which helps to boost the black ratings for those two networks.
Weekend-morning kids' shows averaged a 3.9 rating in black households, more than
double -- 148 percent higher than -- the 1.6 rating that the daypart got in white homes.
Many cable networks also run off-network series, such as
sitcoms, and 'a lot of those shows did well on broadcast networks with blacks,'
according to Sternberg.
Some of the networks that fared poorly with black
households included The Nashville Network, MSNBC and The Learning Channel. TNN's
ratings were 61 percent lower in black homes versus in white ones, or 0.17 versus 0.44.
MSNBC did a 0.03 in black homes, or 57 percent less than its 0.07 in white homes, the
study found. TLC scored a 0.15 rating in black households, or 50 percent less than the 0.3
that it did in white homes, the survey found.
Blacks, who watch 11 percent more television during
primetime than whites, also watched more independent TV stations -- a category that also
included the WB Network and UPN -- than white households, the study found. Both UPN and
the WB are aggressively pursuing black audiences with shows that feature black casts.