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By Published on .

In a controversial new report that addresses the lack of ethnic diversity in broadcast network prime-time TV programming, J. Walter Thompson Co. concludes that the real culprit is marketers.

There is no economic benefit for creating a TV series that skews under 18 or over 50, said David Marans, senior partner-media research director at JWT and author of the report, a copy of which was obtained by Advertising Age.

The report, "Disintegration of Broadcast Network Prime," was sent to agency clients last week.

"The broadcast networks have to rely almost exclusively on advertising revenue, and the marketers are saying to them, basically, give us 18- to 49-year-olds and the more upmarket they are, the better," Mr. Marans said.


"If African-Americans are not really interested in shows that appeal to middle-class whites, and the white 18-to-49 audience isn't interested in a show that appeals a lot to African-Americans, the path of least resistance is to create a show . . . like 'Friends,' " he said.

The shows most popular among African-Americans ages 18 to 49, such as "The Steve Harvey Show" or "The Jamie Foxx Show," are according to Mr. Marans "virtually off the radar screen for whites."

Reciprocally, programs most popular among white viewers, such as most of NBC's Thursday night lineup, are the lowest-rated among African-Americans ages 18 to 49. The lone exception, "ER," does well with African-Americans "just by virtue of its huge audience," he said.


The JWT report found kids and teens also have been abandoning ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox in prime time-in far greater percentages than the general population.

Ironically, Mr. Marans noted, if the networks keep alienating different segments of the 18-to-49-year-old audience, it's going to be harder and harder to reach a critical mass of that demographic group.

"Furthermore, the 18-to-49 upscale category watches less TV, and are the first ones to head off to the Internet and new media," he said.

If the networks want to prevent this from happening, he said, they need to rethink the advertiser-induced notion that they have to primarily produce clones of "Friends," Mr. Marans concluded.

"We advertisers need to look in the mirror. . . . We're ultimately responsible for the network ratings getting lower and lower, and narrower and narrower," he

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