Annual Edition 'Buying Power of
Black America' report breaks down billions in expenditures Black
consumers are responding to tighter economic condition by focusing more of
their spending on items and services that improve their homes and
lifestyle. That's one of the trends revealed in the 15th annual report,
"The Buying Power of Black America," published by Target Market News. The
report analyzes spending for black households in 2008 and finds that
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Networks President Scott Mills reflects on 30 years of change at the
(June 23, 2010) ) BET President Scott Mills, a naturally enthusiastic
man who can talk from sun to sun about his cable television outfit,
needed only seven words to sum up the 30-year-old network's strategy.
"You live and die by what resonates," Mills told me.
As Mills smiled contentedly, for a moment I couldn't quite figure out
whether he was making a commentary on BET's programming progress today
or pondering the station's outdated image as a purveyor of music videos.
Maybe it's really just one and the same.
BET, the dominant African-American media brand, is a force by any
measure. Its primary channel reaches more than 90 million households in
the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, the Middle
East and sub-Saharan Africa. Its other operations include BET.com,
Centric (a 24-hour entertainment network targeting the 25-to-54 age
group), and Digital Networks.
Forging a connection Once, when BET was intent on forging a connection with its viewers,
it relied heavily on music videos to create an identity. Some critics,
however, charged that some of the videos shown on BET -- a familiar
acronym for Black Entertainment Television -- reflected immorality. That
Now, at BET, the mantra might well be "mainstream." Today, about 15% of
BET's content involves music videos, Mills noted.
When BET conducted a survey among its audience, it polled 80,000 people
to find out what viewers cared about. "The one universal theme was the
importance of family," Mills said.
The findings reinforced BET's conviction that it was essential to
provide programming that can appeal to any member of the family, such as
"Sunday Best," "The Mo'Nique Show" and "The Family Crews." See the BET
BET's mission is to "reflect, respect and elevate our (audience)" Mills
Making progress BET is undeniably making progress, underscored by Starbucks'
decision to advertise on BET. Snagging a major advertiser like Starbucks
highlights BET's progress.
The network was launched in January 1980 by former lobbyist Robert
Johnson. He received a loan for $15,000, and also obtained a $500,000
investment from cable magnate John Malone.
BET became a 24-hour channel in 1983, and then made history in 1991, as
the first black-controlled entity listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Johnson, who had a controlling stake in BET, sold it to Viacom for some
$3 billion about a decade ago
"The biggest challenge facing any niche channel is how to go narrow and
deep enough to serve the core audience yet expand enough at the edges to
get new viewers without alienating the stalwarts," pointed out Jonathan
Wald, former senior vice president of CNBC. "It's the same issue faced
by BET and CNN: serve the loyal audience yet grow it without turning
loyal viewers off."
It's a balancing act, all right. But Mills bristled slightly when I
suggested that an emphatic shift to occupy the mainstream might detract
from BET's ability to present daring programming.
"It's not that we can't be edgy," Mills said, "but we have to represent
BET has to please another entity, beyond its niche audience. Its
corporate parent Viacom is a global media conglomerate. Viacom has
dedicated itself to attracting very large groups of viewers through such
focused cable TV offerings as MTV, VH-1 and Nickelodeon.
Mills is confident that BET can retain its individuality and not be
viewed by its audience as a tool of a large media corporation. It would
seem as if BET has the best of all worlds as a focused cable network
that happens to be supported by a large and powerful parent.
Ultimately, BET will have to continue to refine its strategy to adjust
to changing times in terms of demographics, audience tastes, technology
and other factors. Mills is aware that it is essential to be able to
make changes on the fly.
The best strategy for long-term success is to always ask "is there a
better way to do this?" Wald said, adding:
"The challenge for executives is to run any niche channel like it's a
startup -- even if it's been around as long as BET. If you are
constantly trying to own your area of expertise, represent the interest
of the core viewer, and try new things at the same time, you will see
your audience grow rather than shrink. If you build it, they will come."
2010 MAAX Awards winners to be honored
June 29th in Chicago
Market News will honor the recipients of the 2010 Marketing to African
Americans with Excellence [MAAX] Awards on Tuesday, June 29th at the
Wyndham Hotel in Chicago. The awards program annually recognizes the
contributions, innovations and exceptional performance of African
American professionals in the fields of marketing, advertising, media,
public relations and consumer research. This year' honorees are: Advertising
Executive of the Year Fay
Burrell Communications Advertising
Executive of the Year
McGhee Williams Osse
Burrell Communications Media
Executive of the Year
Debra L. Lee
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer,
Executive of the Year Marilyn
Assistant Regional Census Manager
U.S. Census Bureau Marketing
Executive of the Year Rob
McDonald's USA Public
Relations Executive of the Year
President, National Black Public Relations Society
Achievement Award Rev.
Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Founder and President, Rainbow PUSH Coalition
Achievement Award Earl
G. Graves, Sr.
Chairman and Publisher
Earl G. Graves Ltd., Black Enterprise Magazine
Lerone Bennett, Jr.
Historian and Author,
Former Executive Editor of