HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER PosterIf the gazillion studies that have been done in the last few years aren’t evidence enough (we’ve published a few of them here) of a still woefully untapped black TV audience, and the direct correlation between how ethnically diverse TV series casts & crew are and ratings – the more diverse, the higher the ratings; and thus the more a network could charge in advertising dollars, directly affecting their all-important bottomline –  maybe this chart compiled by the good folks at Advertising Age magazine, will help drive the point home.

As you can see below, excluding reality TV and sports programming, 3 of the top 6 original scripted broadcast TV shows that command the highest advertising rates per 30 second commercial, star black actors. That’s half of them: "Empire" at the top with almost $500,000 per 30 second commercial; "How to Get Away With Murder" is next at around $250,000 per 30 second ad; and "Scandal" with $225,000 per 30 second commercial.

Also worth noting is that 2 of them are Shonda Rhimes series, both on ABC. The other, "Empire," is on FOX. 

By the way, these figures are for the current TV season which kicked off this week. 

"Empire" premiered last night, drawing its second highest audience numbers in the show’s history, or a hefty 16 million viewers. "Scandal" and "How to Get Away With Murder" return tonight at 9 and 10pm respectively, and I expect both will come out swinging in terms of ratings, which we’ll know more about tomorrow.

A year or so ago, I half-joked about how instrumental the additions of Angela Bassett and Gabourey Sidibe to the cast of "American Horror Story" were, in helping its premiere episode of "Coven" become the most-watched telecast ever in the "American Horror Story" franchise, recording 5.54 million total viewers, ranking #1 for the night in Adults 18-34 against all broadcast competition in primetime that day (8-11pm). 
And away from the small screen, to the big screen, one of the most successful movie franchises in cinema history, "Fast & Furious," has seen its box office earnings continue to impress with each installment, which, as we’ve noted in previous posts, is likely due in some part to the movie’s diverse cast and crew.

And let’s not forget this year’s unexpectedly massive success of "Straight Outta Compton" which is on its way to grossing $200 million worldwide.

And there are several other examples in recent years, both on the small and big screens; and there will continue to be more until they are eventually seen as the rule, instead individual exceptions.

The overall complexion of the world – specifically the USA – is gradually changing, and it’s something that should not be ignored, especially if you’re creating content for a mass, mainstream audience. We all want to see ourselves on screen – at least I certainly think so. Quite a bold concept, isn’t it?
I’d like to think there is already some awareness of this within Hollywood studio executive offices – especially in 2015; and maybe this year’s record number of TV pilots with black actors in starring, lead and supporting roles suggests that some of them are coming around. But as the past teaches us, let’s not get too carried away, believing that we’re on the cusp of actually, genuine, long-term change – at least not until there’s some consistency. 

Check back with me in 5 years; if these annual studies lamenting the lack of diversity in Hollywood are still de rigueur, then we can assume at the time that years like the one we’re currently in did little to open the minds of film and TV studio decision-makers.

It was in 1945 when research was first used to aid in defining Blacks as consumers. The study was initiated by the Afro-American Newspaper Group, in collaboration with the Urban League. A summary of the findings confirmed that blacks were a viable market segment (Wow, really? Who knew?), but the racial attitudes of the time prevented most marketers from pursuing the opportunity to fully exploit that very viable market segment.

Seventy years later, with African American buying power specifically, said to be something like $1.5 trillion annually, it’s incredible that any marketer would still be ignoring the African American marketplace (in all its diversity) including those shortsighted thinkers in Hollywood.

Man, where’s Putney Swope when you need him… Truth & Soul Inc, 2015 style, lacks.

Check out the chart from Adage below. Note that this is the first time since the 2007-2008 TV season that a scripted drama series has ranked in the top 2. Also, these figures reflect the prices advertisers and networks agreed on in this year’s upfront marketplace, which obviously took place before the season began.

Top 10 Priciest Shows on Broadcast For Advertisers