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Keeping Black Viewers’ Attention

Mar 19, 2007  •  Post A Comment

From IAG Research

For this installment, we turn away from analysis by demographic segment to an examination of viewer response among African Americans. Of course no cohort is homogeneous, as black viewers span all ages, incomes and geographic regions.

Over the years, research has nevertheless supported some general observations about African Americans and TV. Use of the medium is well above the national average, and there are significant variations in programming preferences. For example, there is usually little overlap among the most popular series watched by black viewers compared with white viewers (“American Idol” and NFL games being notable exceptions).

But sometimes long-held beliefs are based more on opinion than on the latest data. A challenging research topic has been gauging not merely audience data, but viewer response to programming. This report looks beyond ratings to a different measurement: viewer engagement.

Every day, more than 400 African American TV viewers in the IAG panel answer thousands of survey questions about the programs they watched the previous night. One group of questions centers on attentiveness to programming by asking about what occurred during the show. Analysis of these data continues to link attentiveness to the program and recall of ads within the show. Which programs, then, provide more engaged African American viewers?

We selected the one prime-time series from each of the five broadcast networks that, season-to-date, achieved the highest program-engagement score for original telecasts among African Americans.

An intriguing finding: These five series — comedies and dramas, veterans and relative newcomers — score well among both black and white viewers. These ongoing daily measures reveal that when it comes to attentiveness, ethnicity appears to be only a minor factor.