BET, TV One Bank On Big Upfronts In Election Year

With limited media opportunities for advertisers and marketers to reach African-American consumers, advertising-sales executives from BET Networks and TV One are expecting very strong revenue returns in this year’s upfront market.

Both networks are pitching advertisers on a multiplatform ad-buy opportunity that includes the only two cable outlets targeting the African-American community.

With the major broadcast networks moving away from series and specials featuring predominantly African-American casts, TV One chief revenue officer Keith Bowen said the lack of targeted product will benefit the 44 million-subscriber network as it talks to advertisers over the next few months.

“More and more marketers are looking at niche media as opportunities, versus mass, and we’re seeing more and more money flow into the African-American consumer market than at any point in the years prior,” he said.

Indeed, for October and November 2007 cable programming represented more than 67% of all viewing in African-American households with multiple television sets, compared to 45% for broadcast television, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Cable’s appeal to African-Americans is also reflected in the amount of ad revenue flowing into BET and TV One: Nielsen estimated that ad revenue to both networks, including promos and public-service announcements, jumped to $668 million in 2007 compared to $629 million in 2006.

Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau vice president of diversity, marketing and business development Cynthia Perkins-Roberts believes that the upfront market will be fruitful for minority-targeted networks, although she did not provide specific revenue projections.

“While mainstream networks have been receiving single-digit growth percentages, ethnic networks have pretty consistently generated double-digit growth and I expect the same thing to happen this year,” she said. “Advertisers are increasingly interested in the ethnic segment and I think this year’s political race has brought it even more into the forefront,” added Perkins-Roberts, referring to the historical presidential run of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), an African-American.

For BET, which held a glitzy upfront affair last Thursday in New York, their message is one of multiplatform opportunities around BET, BETJ and Web site, according to president of broadcast media sales Louis Carr. African-Americans are more engaged to the BET brand than any other targeted TV or Web site brand, he added.

That sentiment was certified in a recent Simmons Market Research Bureau study of 5,000 African-American adults released at BET’s upfront that found BET viewers are 21% more ad receptive when they watch ads on the network, and 31% more ad receptive when they see ads on, versus other networks and sites.

“I think the opportunity for advertisers is to integrate products and services, whether its product placement or programming created specifically for them,” said Carr.

TV One, on the other hand, is not hosting a big, blowout upfront presentation but rather has been offering private presentations with prospective marketers for the past three weeks. TV One believes its proposition of original and acquired programming (such as Baisden After Dark and The Hughleys), along with TV One co-owner Radio One’s portfolio of more than 100 African-American targeted online sites — which was significantly boosted earlier this month by the purchase of Community Connect Inc., owner-operator of the popular African-American social Web site — bode well for its upfront performance.

“There’re a lot more opportunity in the market now with TV One in the game,” said Bowen.

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.