Black Viewers Join Streaming Exodus

Family watching TV
Pay TV penetration in Black households fell by 25% over the past four years, per Horowitz Associates. (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Black TV audience, once reliable cable and satellite subscribers, are increasingly cutting the cord in a world of proliferating streaming options.

A new Horowitz Research study found that multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) penetration among Black households has declined about 30% in just the past four years, from 88% in 2017 to only 61% in 2021.

The study found that 60% of Black audiences watch content specifically geared to them at least weekly, suggesting that there is an opportunity for streamers that can provide content that “reflects contemporary Black perspectives and culture,“ combined with ”robust on-demand offerings.“

The study found that four in 10 Black consumers rely on a combination of streaming services, digital antennas for over-the-air broadcast (the study found that Black audiences still value local broadcast news, for example), and and/or virtual vMVPDs for video content, with only one in four relying on MVPD service and no streaming.

But Horowitz said video providers — traditional and over-the-top — have work to do to court that audience, work that goes beyond just building it and expecting them to come.

“Many companies are late to the game, only now focusing on the Black audience in the context of BLM [Black Lives Matter] and new diversity mandates,“ Horowitz chief revenue officer Adriana Waterston said. “To not be viewed as simply pandering, companies who hope to serve the Black audience must make meaningful and sustained investments, not just in programming and marketing, but in community outreach and support, in order to earn this valuable audience’s trust.“

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.