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Black Shows Don’t Sell Overseas? Maybe It’s Not About Color



By Evette Champion

Sometimes it is hard to believe that a hit show in one country wouldn’t do just as well in another, but it appears that is certainly not the case for Fox’s hit show, Empire.

Although the show is still a relative success (even after the second season’s dip in ratings) in the US, it doesn’t do nearly as well in other countries. In fact, the show doesn’t  hit anywhere near the numbers overseas as it does here.


Some would argue that it is the all black cast that is the problem. Marion Edwards, the president of international TV at Fox said he tried to warn American Fox TV that by having an all-black homosexual cast won’t bode well.

“These shows are a reflection of our society, but [they are] not a reflection of all societies. Having a diverse cast creates another hurdle for U.S. series trying to break through; it would be foolish not to recognize that. We are telling our units that they need to be aware that by creating too much diversity in the leads in their show means … problems having their shows translating to the international market,” Edwards said.

However, on the other hand, Edwards also states that American shows with an all-black, heterosexual cast like Black-ish and Cosby did well and “broke all the rules of international television.”

“Those shows and the success of the original Roots mini-series proved there is an interest in black stories abroad,” says Timothy Havens, a professor in African-American studies.

Perhaps, an even more plausible story for Empire’s lack of overseas love may be because American television shows have too many story arcs to stretch the length of 18 episodes in a season, and the international audiences would much rather watch a procedural or even a sitcom. So in other words, our complex story lines can be confusing for even the most intelligent Europeans.

What do you think is the real reason some of our shows don’t do so well internationally, Reel Nation? Let us know in the comments below.

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