While about 17% of the black audience watches independent stations during prime time, just 13% of the white audience tunes in to independents.
And while Fox has targeted the black audience for a number of years-its "New York Undercover" remains the No. 1 program in black households-that strategy has been co-opted by upstart networks UPN and WB, whose programming runs primarily on independent stations.
WB's ratings among African-Americans are at least 300% greater than its white ratings in every demographic segment. UPN has larger black ratings in every demographic category except two-men 18-to-34 and teens.
FEWER BLACK CASTS ON BIG 3
WB and UPN have taken advantage of a shrinking black-programming presence at the Big 3, said Steve Sternberg, senior partner-media resources at BJK&E, New York.
"In 1991, ABC, CBS and NBC carried nine shows with a black lead or cast," he said. "In 1995, that was down to only five."
Another major finding of this year's annual study, he said, is that for the first time ratings for whites on ABC, CBS and NBC were higher in almost every demographic group under 50 than the ratings for blacks. The only exception was kids.
Black households watch TV an average of 50% more than white homes each week. Blacks watch 13% more TV than whites during prime time and 90% more during late night. And despite the success of Fox and the encroachment of WB and UPN, Mr. Sternberg said a number of Big 3 network shows draw large black audiences.
Among the prime-time network shows popular with blacks: NBC's "In the House" and "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and ABC's "Family Matters" and "NFL Monday Night Football."
Fox continues to be the No. 1 network among blacks, with seven of the top 20 prime-time shows. Besides "New York Undercover," the other Fox shows popular in black households are "Living Single," "The Crew," "Martin," "The Preston Episodes," "Married With Children" and "The Simpsons."
The BJK&E study was based on Nielsen Media Research data from the fourth quarter.