"From what I've heard, there's a great possibility there will be fewer network shows with predominantly African-American casts," says Cheryl Harps, exec VP-director of media communications, Don Coleman Advertising, Southfield, Mich. "We are hopeful that shows like 'The Hughleys' will return to the [ABC] schedule as well as the programs on WB; the Steve Harveys, the Jamie Foxes. Those are our No. 1-rated shows."
SHOWS SHOULD RETURN
According to a WB spokesman, "The Steve Harvey Show," "The Jamie Fox Show" and "For Your Love" have all performed well for the network, though not spectacular. The shows are expected to be renewed for the fall and a new untitled midseason show featuring Nick Cannon also is anticipated.
ABC says "The Hughleys" is the season's No. 6 new comedy among all adults 18 to 49. Ms. Harps says the ABC show ranked in the top 20 based on African-American households.
CBS' " 'Cosby' ranks in the top 20, depending on what is running against it. Usually WB or UPN runs counter programming," Ms. Harps says and adds that NBC's "ER" is starting to show up in this listing.
Coleman, which specializes in advertising to African-American consumers, handles buying and/or planning for DaimlerChrylser, Kmart Corp. and General Mills.
Ms. Harps says she thinks the syndicated area for African-American programming is growing more so than the networks.
"Many of the off-network shows such as the 'New York Undercover' and 'Living Single,' go into syndication and continue to do well against the African-American target," she says.
Ms. Harps says she is seeing an increased interest in African-American consumers from high-tech and financial services markets.
"The telecommunications category needs to step up to the plate much more as an industry," says Ms. Harps, who notes African-American consumers are heavy purchasers of various telecommunications services.
BUYING POWER CITED
African-Americans spend about $433 million on mobile telephone service and $323 million on telephones and accessories, according to researcher Target Market News' study on the "Buying Power of Black America."
To boost the share of African-American viewers, Black Entertainment Network has been expanding its lineup of programs.
The new shows were being previewed during 20 agency and marketer presentations last month and this month, says Louis Carr, exec VP-broadcast media sales for BET.
Programming changes include "L.A. Live," a new late-night talk show -- BET is still searching for hosts and stars -- to air at 10 p.m. Ten original made-for-TV movies, produced by Arabesque Dramas, are slated to debut Sept. 13 along with three new music and video shows.
Mr. Carr says advertisers can expect CPM increases atop 1998's 40% increase.
MORE PRICE HIKES
While the discussion remains on BET's effort to achieve pricing "equalization" among its general-market network peers, Mr. Carr touts the network's value to marketers.
His objective is to "get into the ballpark" with major networks, and he's looking to generate what he calls the traditional "adjustment" other major cable networks achieve once they've proven their ability to deliver the audience.
BET debuted in January 1980, and currently reaches 55 million homes.
"We certainly will continue to evaluate all program alternatives," says Ms. Harps. "But we certainly will not abandon BET and the programs they have to offer, in light of the fact they have invested in new first-run programs."
LOOKING FOR FALLOUT
Bob Tassie, president, Unity Media, New York, a media buying agency specializing in ethnic marketing, says news of the CPM hikes has left him and his clients, like Western Union and Carson Products, wondering how they will be affected.
BET provides the ideal environment and most efficient buy for marketers seeking African-American viewers, Mr. Tassie says, but notes some of his clients have expressed dismay that general-market advertisers only now are being asked by BET to pay higher rates.
Thus, he admits, his clients have told Mr. Tassie to investigate alternatives if he finds the BET price is not efficient against the buy.
As traditional and upstart broadcast and cable networks, including Fox, Lifetime, MTV, UPN, VH1 and WB continue to deliver appropriate programming content for his target audience, Mr. Tassie says he slowly is using those alternatives.
He says he considered "Divas," the VH1 special that aired recently for his female audience.
UPN's "Moesha" and "Malcom & Eddie" series have been popular enough to generate spinoffs "Mo'Nique" and "Daddio." Last month, CBS renewed "Cosby" for the fall. "UPN and WB maybe can give me a fairly efficient CPM against my target group," he says. "But efficiencies BET is offering still give me a good buy."
If advertisers accept BET's hike, and the network sells 70% of its inventory in the upfront, Mr. Tassie isn't certain what he'll do. The scatter marketplace, he says, leaves him "intimidated."
"If they get the kind of increases they're looking for in the upfront, their scatter marketplace is going to be rich," he says.
"It still goes back to what type of value and priority do marketers put on African-American consumers?" Mr. Carr asked. "I feel if it's a high priority and