While overall TV viewership in a key advertising demographic of 18-to-34-year-olds has dropped 6% since 1994, viewing by African-American women in that age group declined 22% during the same period, according to the study. The figures are based on an analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.
Jon Swallen, O&M senior partner-director of media research, said there were two possible explanations for the big dip. "One, there is some bug or glitch in the Nielsen data. Or, two, there might be some behavioral or lifestyle explanation," he said.
The latter turned out to be true, according to the agency's findings. Peter Chrisanthopoulos, O&M president of broadcasting and programming, USA, said U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show that unemployment for African-American women 20-plus declined 19% over the last five years. Working women, he said, have less time to watch TV in all dayparts.
But Nielsen believes O&M is "making too much of the decline in viewing by young black women," said Barry Cook, senior VP-research for the ratings service.
He said that from 1991 and 1998 there was a 16% drop in TV viewing by all women 18 to 34 and a 24% decline in viewing by African-American women.
"However, if you take out black women from the entire pie, it's still a 14% decline in viewing by all other women 18 to 34," Mr. Cook said. He added that while Nielsen has also looked at U.S. employment statistics, "We don't have the data to support or not support [employment as a reason for] this decline in viewing by young black women."
Mr. Swallen found Nielsen's dismissal of the O&M finding somewhat frustrating. "Any way you look at it, there was a big decline of usage by black women in 1995