BET: Population, Spending Skyrocketing for African Americans

The results of the 2010 U.S. Census won’t be available until December, but preliminary data suggests the African-American population is growing at a faster rate than the rest of the general population. Perhaps more importantly, it has become apparent that African-American consumers are commanding more buying power than ever before.

According to a comprehensive new BET study, the number of African-American citizens is expected to rise by 13.4 percent from the 2000 Census, to 42 million people. Over the course of the first eight years of the previous decade, African-American buying power increased 55 percent to $913 billion; by 2013, that figure is expected to shoot up another 36 percent to $1.24 trillion.

As a segmentation study, BET’s “African Americans Revealed” report looks to dispel the prevailing attitudes that lump black consumers into one homogeneous demographic. Among the many aspects of the African-American experience that the initiative touches on are: family dynamics, tech savvy/adoption, spirituality and education.

The Viacom network last week unveiled the results of the study in an early-morning gathering of media buyers, clients and demographers. Louis Carr, BET’s president of media sales, said the presentation was designed to get the conversation started, a catalyst meant to spark a number of substantive conversations with BET’s sponsor partners.

“We’re looking to establish the idea that we can offer boundless opportunities for sponsors to connect with the African-American marketplace,” Carr said, adding that the study provides a wealth of information about consumer behaviors that are often overlooked.

For example, based on a panel of 10,000 women age 18 and up, African-Americans account for 11 percent of all health and beauty purchases, with an average annual spend of $1,284 per woman. That outstrips the general population’s average yearly investment ($1,012 a piece).

Other areas of the study address matters like technology and how the rise of digital platforms influences media consumption. Per BET, roughly 31 percent ($39 billion) of all African-American discretionary income is earmarked for investing in personal computers, mobile phones and other advanced consumer-electronics devices. It follows then that African-American consumers are devoting more time online (18 hours per week) than in front of their TV sets (15 hours).

Another portion of the study indicates that 93 percent of African Americans log onto the Web through their desktop or laptop computers, whereas 76 percent surf the ‘net and check their e-mail via mobile phone or personal digital assistant (PDA).

In a bid to more fully illustrate the diversity of the African-American experience as it relates to media consumption, economic might and certain other socioeconomic factors, BET subdivided the population into seven distinct psychographics. Among the groups that are also the most loyal BET viewers are: The Strivers, Conscious Sisters, Tech-Fluentials and Bright Horizons.

Per the report’s classification system, the Strivers are trendspotters and trendsetters in their 20s and 30s who are on their way up the corporate ladder. Strivers account for the largest segment, numbering 7.9 million individuals and making up 36 percent of the BET audience. Conscious Sisters are Gen Xers in their 30s and 40s who are culturally and spiritually aware; one in five BET viewers best align with this category. Tech-Fluentials and Bright Horizons are the youngest, most digitally savvy groups and when taken together, they account for a quarter of BET’s overall viewership.

Carr notes that the original presentation was devised as a means to introduce the basic elements of the study, and yet already many of the clients who received the materials are beginning to circle back for a deeper dive into the data-stream.  

“The simple proposition is that the better you understand the consumer, the better your chances of reaching them,” Carr said. “At the same time we’re outlining the complexities of our audience for clients, we as a network have been working to ensure that the BET brand represents and reflects the values and interests of the African American consumer. We’re continuing to develop and strengthen our relationship with our viewers and a big part of that process is maintaining our credibility.”

BET in 2009 enjoyed its strongest year on both sides of the screen, growing its prime-time deliveries by 23 percent to 775,000 total viewers, while bringing in the most advertising business in its history. In a given month, some 115 advertisers representing 250+ brands buy time on the linear network and