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

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

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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.

Why?

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.

Comment(12)

  1. Because it’s about what happens in American not so much in other countries. We are the leading country in the entertainment industry. We have made entertainment our priority. So therefore people lose interest and probably can’t relate ….whereas family shows, more people can relate because most everyone has experienced being in or have a desire to be in a family.

    Besides. I thought Empire did do well. The media. It conflicts w itself and twists things out of context so much that you can’t believe everything you read.

  2. Well when you use this a s a standard as a Black show, it will never sell. this kinda is something that began with whites, so naturally they are more comfortable with this format, if they are involved

  3. I think the story lines push homosexuality more than is necessary so that turns many people off. I have known about homosexuality as I attended high schopl in the sixties with many teens who identified as gay. The fact is there are homosexuals in every group of animals so it is not necessary to patade rhem around like carnival acts. This season is better so far, but one doesn’t have to watch these people simulating what goes on to understand that it is some people’s lifestyle.

  4. How about the show is not doing well or is not popular because it puts Black in a bad light? I watched the show the first season just to give it a chance. But I put in the same category as those reality shows. I cringe when I think of other countries watching us wanting to know if that is all Black culture in the US is about. A lot of people argue that it’s reality and it’s about time they put something on television that Black folk are familiar with…that plenty of kids have at least 1 parent in prison. We are pushing us backwards. We are aware that our kids many times believe that the only way to make it out of being poor is becoming a pro ball player or becoming a rap star. This show enforces that mentality and the fact that it is ok for everybody to do a little jail time. It’s normal in our lives. If you do nothing else, look at who Rupert Murdoch is. Why would he back this show? And Lee Daniels did an interview and chuckled over the fact that his Black adopted kids have seen “The Diary of Anne Frank” many time over thanks to his Jewish ex-lover. But have never seen “Roots?” How is that acceptable? As a Black mother, I would not give that person the time of day. and it runs of FOX! Seriously people?! Even the “Willie Lynch Letter” was all about psychology. But we don’t believe in it and we fall for it. We could be focused on how to keep our kids from dying by their own hands and police brutality. But we’re busy. Empire is on….. smh

  5. I’m sorry, I got stuck on the comment about, “too much diversity in the leads.” I love how these people never seem to think that having too many white folks in lead roles is a problem because everyone wants to see them, right? And, since racism towards people of color, especially black folks, is prevalent everywhere, why should we assume that race isn’t the issue. Why do they try so hard to try to make us believe that it is NEVER about race? We know that black movies don’t sell in Asia and studies have found them to dislike black folks more than even white folks do. What is wrong with the truth?

  6. This article is complete bullshit! This is political propaganda. Empire took the whole world by a storm when it debuted last year in January 2015. It did very well in foreign markets and as a matter of fact, they were actually more appreciative of Empire as art than America was. Over here in the states Empire production struggled and continues to struggle with colorism and class and cultural warfare. The producers and network almost tanked the show because of America’s hidden cultural caste systems and the insane need to hold on to negative strongholds about blackness and urban life. When they brought the show back for season 2, this past fall, September 2015, the show was markedly different and it offended so many people that true Empire aficionados stopped watching in droves from the first episode of the second season up to the end of the Season 2 hiatus. The overseas Empire market probably followed suit with the American viewing audience and stopped watching when the producers and network tried to “kill” the show earlier this season. The Epic, iconic reality that is Empire is so good and so exciting that many of us came right back with the first episode after the break which aired on March 30th, here in the states. BTW, episode 11, S2, did not disappoint. It was Vintage Empire.

  7. See this portion of Dana’s comment above a la Marketing 101: “TV channels generally do not finance TV shows that appeal to black audiences or buy them abroad …. If a ‘black show is picked up, it is …aired on channels that people have to pay extra for”. Aggressive NICHE marketing targeted towards that specific demographic. Creative push methods also might tip the scale in favor of increased acceptability. Lastly, the article appears in need of an upgrade to reflect a more precise conclusion based upon facts, research, and statistics.

  8. What so important about a bunch of TV shows depicting KneeGrowpeans , whose Amerikkkanization process has led us to being as empty as their beloved enemy- white brothers !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Does anybody know if tv shows Black-ish, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder are being broadcast in African countries? If so, are the ratings for those shows doing well in African countries? I would like to know that information.

  10. As a non-African American/ Afro-Eurocaribbean woman reading this article I feel that this article/ analysis is incorrect about a number of things and lacking several points.
    1. Europe has a large black community with people coming from places like Nigeria, Guyana, Trinidad, Brazil, Ghana, South-Africa etc etc. Besides the black community there are also other large non-white communities. So when it comes to diversity, the American tv shows do reflect the diversity that is also present in Europe.

    2. What the article is overlooking is that even though the black community is of a significant size, black people in Europe are lacking general representation in the media. TV Channels generally do not finance tv shows that appeal to black audiences or buy them abroad. For instance Scandal wasn’t picked up in The Netherlands till season 2 started airing in the US and they only picked up 1 season.

    3. If in the slim change a ‘black show’ is picked up, it is most often aired on Channels that people have to pay extra for. Therefore if people would like to see the shows they make use of other ways of getting the shows. In my circles shows like How to Get Away with Murder, Black-ish, Being Mary Jane, Scandal and Empire are closely followed but their views are not recorded.

    So these are my 2 cents 🙂

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