African-Americans are Leaders in Media Consumption

African-American consumers continue to lead the consumption of content across multiple platforms, according to a recent Nielsen 2019 Diverse Intelligence Series (DIS) report on African Americans.

Nielsen’s It’s In The Bag: Black Consumers’ Path to Purchase report states that African-Americans continue to be voracious consumers of television content, spending more than 50 hours watching live and time-shifted television a week in first quarter 2019, over 10 hours more than the total population, according to the research company.

“It doesn’t matter how many other streaming services we have access to, traditional television viewing is still number one with the African-American population,” said Cheryl Grace, senior vice president of U.S. strategic community alliances and consumer engagement for Nielsen. “What that looks like is 91% of every African-American can be reached weekly via television primarily through what we’re watching in real time and what we save on our recording devices.”

The tv shows African-Americans are watching don't always match that of the general population as black viewers gravitate more towards content that reflect their images and storylines -- particularly among younger viewers. Among adults 18-34, only Fox’s 911 and Empire show up among the top 20 most watched shows for both the African-Americans and the total population. VH1’s Love & Hip Hop franchise, Black Inc. Crew and Fox’s  cancelled Star are among the top 10 most-watched shows in young, African-American households that are not ranked on the top 20 most-watched TV show list for the total population.

Despite  heavy usage of traditional media, African-American consumers are on the cutting edge of new content distribution platforms and devices. Overall, 61% of African Americans are fascinated by new technology and 37% are more likely than the total population to be the first among their peers to try new technology products, according to Nielsen.

That includes a whopping 96% of all African-American adults having and using a smartphone, compared to 95% of the total population, according to Nielsen. Further, African-Americans 35 and older surpass all consumers in their age group by 2% for smartphone ownership.

Not surprisingly, African-Americans spend more time consuming video on their android phones and iPhones compared to the total population. Nielsen reports that Blacks spend nearly 30 hours a week on websites and apps on their smartphones, more than three hours more than the all consumers as a whole.

Youtube is the most consumed entertainment app for African-Americans at 79%, while Netflix has the highest market share among subscription video on demand apps with 39%, according to Nielsen. Hulu is second with 15%, followed closely by Amazon Prime Video at 14%.

On the social media front, Facebook is the top choice for African-American adults, with more than 65% of black adults using the service, according to Nielsen. Grace added that African-Americans overindex in the use of other social media services such as Instagram, SnapChat, Pinetrest and Twitter compared to the total population.

Yet despite African American consumers’ high consumption of traditional and new media -- as well as an estimated annual buying power of $1.3 trillion dollars -- Grace said companies are not increasing ad dollars targeting black consumers. She added that about $18 billion was spent on African-American-focused media in 2018, an overall decline of 5% from the prior year, with declines in such platforms as cable television (down 1%), digital media (-12%), network TV (-13%) and syndicated TV (-11%)

“Unfortunately despite how much we watch television and look at our digital devices, it doesn’t add up to the [ad] spend that we’re seeing,” she said. “We’re watching more, and yet [advertisers] are spending less to reach us. This is a problem.” 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.