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Tastemakers, Leaders and Media Lovers: Why the African-American Consumer is Important to the Entertainment Industry

3 minute read | February 2014

African-American consumers are more relevant than ever in today’s ever-shifting entertainment market. Seventy-three percent of Whites and 67 percent of Hispanics believe that African-Americans influence mainstream culture—and viewership and listenership numbers back this up. As a result, their choices are affecting the whole entertainment industry. To capture this influential demographic’s attention, marketers must understand African-Americans’ specific tastes and habits to provide content that best suits their interests and needs.

The Reality of TV and Movie Viewership

African-Americans are voracious viewers of television. In 2013, they watched over seven hours a day! This is more time (and programming) than any other demographic—a hefty 37 percent more. In addition to traditional TV, African-American consumers openly embrace new media channels. On average, they spend six hours and 22 minutes a month consuming media on a DVD or Blu-Ray player, nearly eight hours per month consuming media on a game console and six hours and 39 minutes a month watching video on a mobile phone—surpassing all other demographics across all three viewing platforms. They are also 19 percent more likely than the average American household to utilize cable’s free video on demand services and 10 percent more likely to engage in free streaming video on demand services (for either TV shows or movies). This group’s massive consumption of media presents opportunities in programming content and advertising to engage these viewers.

Tastemakers at the Top of the Music Charts

As with TV, African-Americans are mighty music tastemakers. African-American artists across multiple genres appear among best-selling artists during the SoundScan era*. Some of these chart-topping musicians include the King of Pop Michael Jackson (over 34 million records sold to date), late rapper Tupac Shakur (29 million), crooners Boyz II Men (over 24 million) and the Queen of R&B Soul Mary J. Blige (over 24 million), to name a few.

African-American music consumers also top the charts. They are second only to Hispanics in radio listenership, with 92 percent of African Americans tuning in each week. This amounts to 62 hours and 51 minutes per month of AM/FM radio consumption. And just like with videos, they’re quick to adopt innovative radio and music platforms. African-Americans are 12 percent more likely to listen to radio primarily online and 9 percent more likely to have a paid streaming subscription than the average American. In general, streamers are also 11% more likely to be African-American than the average adult Internet user.

Game Changers               

African-Americans stand at the intersection of video games and technology. They are immersed in video game culture—they are 50 percent more likely to read any bi-weekly or monthly gaming magazine on a tablet and 40 percent more likely to read any bi-weekly or monthly gaming magazine on an e-reader than the average adult Internet user.

As today’s entertainment landscape morphs and evolves with new technologies, entertainment consumers are becoming more and more diversified. And each consumer segment has its own particular personalities and idiomatic preferences that can make marketing more challenging—but also more fruitful—than ever before. Understanding African-American consumption behavior can take companies one-step further in tailoring their marketing message towards this vital and influential consumer.

*The SoundScan era consists of 1991-present.

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