Minority-owned and targeted media companies are playing a larger role in this year’s upfront dealmaking, as brands and agencies alike look to uphold commitments to shift more marketing dollars into Black, Latino and other diverse media channels.
With upfront deals wrapped for a majority of the media giants, attention is now turning toward BIPOC-owned channels, with many media owners calling the demand and interest from advertisers “unprecedented” in the wake of the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and the renewed social justice movement.
Over the past year, Black media leaders like Byron Allen have been calling on Madison Avenue to allocate more dollars to Black-owned channels that have historically been a small or nonexistent part of upfront conversations. In response, media agencies and top marketers like General Motors, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have pledged to do more.
While there are very specific efforts being made to invest in Black-owned media, overall the industry is also making an effort to spend more with any media channel that has diverse ownership.
BNC, an acronym for the relatively new Black News Channel, had been expecting that there would be incredible interest for the network in this year's upfront, but David Fitzpatrick, VP of revenue says “it’s exceeding what our expectations would be for a start-up network.”
Launched as a 24/7 news network for Black Americans just weeks before the pandemic hit, BNC, which is helmed by former CNN executive Princell Hair, quickly found its footing thanks to a combination of having more people stuck home watching TV and a surge of news events relevant to Black communities. The network's biggest investor is Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan.
BNC saw this as an opportunity to educate the marketplace on its content, hosting about 20 individual upfront presentations this spring for holding companies and brands to familiarize advertisers with its wares that include both flagship news shows, such as “Prime with Charles Blow,” as well as its lifestyle, entertainment and travel programming.
“Last year, and through this year, is the first time in my lifetime that I’m seeing a true commitment,” Fitzpatrick says. “Many to most of the brands are taking the right steps to ensure that there is equity.”
While Fitzpatrick doesn't think sentiment will completely change over night, he says things are “moving in the right direction” with “numerous brands and agencies” backing up their pledges with investment.
Citing the ongoing nature of BNC’s deal-making, Fitzpatrick declined to provide any hard numbers regarding its inventory or revenue, though he was able to confirm that the company has not yet sold out of airtime. “But I would say that we are well on our way to having an incredibly strong upfront,” he says.