Despite the fact that African Americans as a group are the most voracious television viewers, they are the most dissatisfied with the programming options on television. A recent survey asked African Americans, “Are you satisfied with the variety of black TV programs now on the air?” An astounding 97 percent of respondents answered “No.”
The survey, conducted by Black Heritage Network and Target Market News, revealed that the types of programming African Americans really want to see are almost non-existent on television today. Of the survey respondents, 75 percent answered that they would prefer to see more documentaries targeted towards African Americans. Other top preferences for programming were history (71 percent), arts (68 percent), independent films (65 percent), and even news (59 percent). None of these results support the idea that the majority of programming geared towards African Americans should be reality television and talk shows (though admittedly black viewership patterns might indicate preferences that are a bit different than the survey results). Even sports fell to the wayside as only 24 percent reported that they would prefer to see more sports programming.
Ken Smikle, President of Target Market News, said, “It should be no surprise that their answers are contrary to most of the conventional wisdom about what black viewers preferences would be.”
The recent success of a new political drama, Scandal, proves that African Americans enjoy programming that portrays them in a positive yet non-traditional light. For the first three episodes of the new series, 23 percent of the audience consisted of blacks.
“The results clearly reflect an appetite for the kind of black-oriented programming that has long been ignored by the industry,” Smikle said. “It would be interesting to see if the new black-targeted digital and cable channels will be able to take advantage of this strong demand.”