Steve Harvey, Scandal, Twitter, TV and Black People

I watched Steve Harvey while at home during the Christmas holidays and I noticed two things: the talk show revolves around him and his audience was eating it up. His folksy advice about relationships, his comedy and even his personal style makes him stand out in a field of people vying to take the daytime talk show crown after Oprah left.

Critics are already calling Steve Harvey the “next Oprah” as his show is garnering good ratings in its first season. However, I think the show is more like a combination of Dr. Phil and Tom Joyner.

According to Nielsen, “the average African-American spends close to 47 hours a week watching live TV, more than the U.S. average (34 hours), Hispanics (28 hours) and Asians (21 hours)”. According to Pew Internet Research, African Americans and Latinos are more likely to use Twitter than Whites.

The combination of Black people watching TV and using Twitter may explain why “Scandal” is doing so well. Also “Scandal” is boosted by a social media campaign which first started out as a grassroots thing by fans of the show, and then grew to include tweets by the actors as well as the showrunner, Shonda Rhimes. Scandal is consistently in the top ten of trending TV shows according to Bluefin Labs. For example, the February 8th episode of Scandal had over 400,000 comments and over 200 million impressions. The comments include both Facebook and Twitter comments about the show. The impressions are potential earned impressions, meaning the number of impressions made by tweets about a show. (BlueFin Labs)

Twitter has taken note of the power of social TV and recently acquired BlueFin Labs which measures social TV analytics. I have a feeling that at some point, social TV analytics will be as much of a measurement of success of a TV show as Nielsen ratings.

So if Black people are watching TV and are using Twitter, then why are there not more shows with Black actors? The only growth is in reality TV. The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love and Hip Hop, Basketball Wives are the like are the shows that are often tweeted about and even parodied. Reality TV shows are much cheaper to produce than scripted TV shows, but scripted TV shows can get Emmy nominations and critical acclaim.  Other than Shonda Rhimes and Tyler Perry, there are not many African American TV producers and writers that have had success with pitching shows. Now is the time to make television to be truly technicolor.

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