Streaming Beyond February – How Black Audiences are Shaping the Ad-Supported Ecosystem

Streaming Beyond February How Black audiences are shaping the Ad-Supported ecosystem

By Michelle Johnson and Max Newfield
February 21, 2024

FAST channels are having a moment. But are they addressing the needs of the most dedicated audience members?

A recent white paper from Whip Media shows that the number of Free Ad-Supported Television (FAST) channels in the US has increased 81% in the last year. And in the hustle of the “FAST & AVOD Gold Rush,” Black audiences are driving adoption – over-indexing on consumption, but underserved by content and platform.

This time last year, Variety followed up on their 2022 study showing that Black audiences were underserved by FAST channels. The 2023 results? Still underwhelming. While 60% of Black consumers watch Black-focused content weekly, just 2% of FAST channels were targeted at Black audiences.

In other words, just 2% of all FAST channels are targeted toward the needs and viewing interests of 45 million Black Americans.

That’s quite the market gap.

So we dug in to learn if anything has changed in the past year – if platforms, studios and content owners had finally seized the obvious opportunity to  meet  underserved audience demands.

The answer is… sort of. 

First up, the good news: new big-name players have entered the FAST market, such as FUBU who launched a partnership with Cineverse to offer multiple channels of exclusive content for Black audiences.

Other FAST leaders like Freevee and The Roku Channel have increased investment in Black entertainment. In the last year, 10 channels have been added across Freevee (+4 channels), The Roku Channel (+1 channel), Pluto TV (+2 channels) and Tubi (+3 channels).

Despite the glacial movement, the audience remains – almost inexplicably – underserved and the opportunity remains un-seized.

A Nielsen report released earlier this month shows that 67% of Black Americans want to see more representation of their identity group on screen. That same report highlights that Black adults spend over 30% more time with TV each week than the general U.S. population. Furthermore, Nielsen indicates that Black-created and Black-inclusive content is more influential than ever… and Black audience buying power is expected to top $2 trillion (USD) by 2026.

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So why are FAST and AVOD, specifically, such a compelling  approach for reaching Black audiences? 

A 2023 study from Horowitz Research shows that Black viewers, more so than other audience segments, are extremely well acquainted with the free streaming ecosystem.That study shows that 80% of Black TV viewers had used a free OTT service in the previous month, more than 10% higher than overall consumers.

Elsewhere, CRG Global found that 6 in 10 Black FAST viewers engage with FAST on a daily basis, which is far more frequent than other demographics surveyed. Those same viewers reported that FAST channels are more entertaining and offer higher quality content than traditional TV networks. In fact, 25% of respondents said they would be fine ONLY watching FAST channels.

So what do we do with all this data?

Offerings for Black audiences are fragmented across FAST, AVOD, and SVOD services (The CRG Global survey reports only 67 Black-focused FAST channels in total). But Terry City, SVP of Ad Sales for Cineverse, says, media buyers are poised and ready to drive industry-wide change.

“I have found that brands, agencies, and holding companies have mandates that they have a percentage of their spend go to Black owned media companies,” says City. “What still remains to be seen as whether or not those dollars are actually being spent. It’s one thing to earmark those dollars but to actually seek out those media/content companies and partner with them in a meaningful way is what the industry needs.”

This presents the most important opportunity: a strategic advantage for Black led and owned businesses.

Does the subject matter or genre of content matter for securing these untapped media buys?

City continues, “It should also be known that (the ad spends are) not solely to reach Black audiences but general audiences as well.

Audience trends support City’s point. A Cineverse study found that Black FAST viewers want to feel represented in their media but, naturally, also have broad ranges of interest in the content they watch. In the survey of over 1,000 respondents, action and comedy led in favorite genres with horror, true crime, reality shows, and – notably – cooking shows coming in not far behind.

These findings dispel the myth that representation means “urban content,” rather it unlocks limitless opportunities to connect with a large, engaged and diverse fanbase – and to lift up new creators and storytellers.

And that’s good for business.

If you are a Black streaming business owner, own a large repository of content relevant for this underserved audience, or you want to license new material to supplement the content you already own, contact us at to chat about how we can help you tell more untold stories.

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