Black audiences consume more media and TV than any other group, but they want better representation

Despite being the highest share of media consumers, Black individuals in the U.S. and abroad often feel as though they are misrepresented or underrepresented in mainstream media, according to a Nielsen report published Thursday.

Black Americans regularly outpace the rest of the general U.S. population in terms of media consumption, clocking more than 81 hours per week with media, such as television, radio and the internet. For Black people 65 and older, that figure rises to more than 92 hours each week, according to the report.

Charlene Polite Corley, the vice president of diverse insights and partnerships at Nielsen, told NBC News that consumption of media can be an important source of connection and community for Black Americans, and the report’s findings echo this sentiment.

“When it comes to the media consumption of Black America, it really just means content is key to our culture,” said Polite Corley, who is Black. “‘Have you seen this show? Have you heard this album? Stream this latest hit.’ Those are forms of cultural cachet.”

Black Americans are more likely than the general population to access three or more streaming services, according to Nielsen. Around 73% of Black individuals pay for three or more subscription-based streaming services, compared to 60% of all audiences.

Over two-thirds of Black Americans reported feeling that Black representation in TV and media was inadequate. The majority of the Black diaspora surveyed — which includes consumers in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa — agreed that they felt misrepresented in the media.

“What the prevailing message for me is that the practices of years past where maybe just having one character wasn’t enough — the funny best friend or the nice and loving mom,” Polite Corley said. “People want the nuance and intersectionality and the authenticity.”

These findings echo what other researchers have found about Black representation in parts of media. The majority of Black Americans surveyed in early 2023 told the Pew Research Center that they felt portrayals of Black people are more negative than news about other racial and ethnic groups.

All of these findings lead to media companies’ bottom lines: Around 59% of Black individuals were more likely to support brands that feature Black individuals, according to Nielsen.

It may also be a missed opportunity for media companies, content creators and brands given the increasing buying power of Black consumers, according to the Nielsen report, which writes that today's Black buying power at $1.7 trillion is estimated to top $2 trillion by 2026.

“I hope what the report shows is the increased demand, the opportunity to continue to meet that demand, and that this is an investment and not a risk or something that we should be retreating from,” Polite Corley said.

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