This Is What Black People Watch (And Don't Watch) On Premium Cable

    Based on audience composition, Starz's crime drama Power has the highest percentage of African-American viewers since HBO's The Wire.

    Premium cable — beginning with HBO — has led the quality programming revolution that has now spread so virulently through television that there aren't enough hours to watch everything you like.

    But it hasn't always featured a tonnage of lead actors of color. There are conspicuous and eminent exceptions — HBO's The Wire — and there have certainly been shows with diverse casts (HBO's True Blood and Showtime's The L Word). Yet, as Starz CEO Chris Albrecht put it on an earnings call last year, there are audiences who pay for HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Starz who are "underserved in the current television landscape."

    The show Albrecht was referring to when he made that comment was Starz's Power, which finished its first season on Saturday night, and has been renewed for a second one. Created by Courtney Kemp Agboh — who, as a woman of color who is not Shonda Rhimes, is an extreme rarity — and executive produced by Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Power is a crime story about the tangled life of James "Ghost" St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), a club owner, drug dealer, (cheating) husband, and father.

    In Power, Albrecht has seemingly gotten what he hoped for; in its first season, the show had the highest concentration of African-American viewers since The Wire. Also notable: Those two series are the only scripted shows on premium cable since 2006 with audiences that are more than 50% black.

    Yes, only two shows out of dozens and dozens have an audience that's more than half black. Looking at the Nielsen data for audience composition across premium cable's scripted shows yields a strange, fascinating list. It's a very different list than you would see if the data were arranged as the number of African-American households or viewers for each show. That list would generally favor the most popular shows which, logically, also have a large number black viewers — The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, True Blood, and other massive hits. But when it comes to audience composition, the 78 shows — all airing from 2006 through now, because that is the year Nielsen began counting DVR usage — reveal a different slice of premium cable from what's generally covered. (For comparison's sake, network television's diversity game-changer, Scandal, has an audience that is 37% black.)

    I'll include data points throughout the post, with some explanatory bits at the bottom as well, but one big methodology note here: These numbers are all from what Nielsen calls Live + Same Day ratings of each show's premiere viewing, meaning, viewers who watch a show live or within several hours of its initial airing. As we all know, many people watch shows later on their DVRs, on-demand, or during a rerun. Premium cable companies are especially agnostic about when viewers watch, since they are subscription services, and not ad-based. With all of the different ways to watch, a show like Power ends up with 4 million viewers for each episode; Season 4 of HBO's Game of Thrones had an average cumulative audience of 19 million. But in order to compare apples to apples, the Live + Same Day premiere episode ratings are what we are using here.

    As you look through the shows below, you'll notice, unsurprisingly, that those with black leads or diverse casts dominate the Top 15, whether that's HBO's Treme or short-lived No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, or Showtime's current hit House of Lies, starring Don Cheadle. Generally, the more broadly popular the show is, the further down the rankings it falls — but not always. Beyond that, the list is just… well, it's unexpected! TV nerds may laugh about what's ranked last, though — whatever divides us, we all can agree about John From Cincinnati.

    1. Power, Starz (June 2014-present): 71%

    2. The Wire, HBO (2002-2008*): 58%

    3. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, HBO (2009): 42%

    4. The Underground, Showtime (2006): 41%

    5. Sleeper Cell, Showtime (2005-2006*): 40%

    6. Boss, Starz (2011-2012): 31%

    7. Meadowlands, Showtime (2007): 30%

    8. Treme, HBO (2010-2013): 27%

    9. Strike Back, Cinemax (2011-present): 27%

    10. Crash, Starz (2008-2009): 26%

    11. The L Word, Showtime (2004-2009*): 25%

    12. House of Lies, Showtime (2012-present): 24%

    13. Brotherhood, Showtime (2006-2008*): 24%

    14. Getting On, HBO (2013-present): 23%

    15. In Treatment, HBO (2008-2010): 23%

    16. Hunted, Cinemax (2012): 23%

    17. Doll & Em, HBO (2014): 23%

    18. Enlightened, HBO (2011-2013): 22%

    19. Gravity, Starz (2010): 22%

    20. Web Therapy, Showtime (2011-present): 22%

    21. Spartacus, Starz (2010-2013): 21%

    22. Head Case, Starz (2007-2009): 21%

    23. The Leftovers, HBO (2014-present): 20%

    24. Banshee, Cinemax (2013-present): 20%

    25. Hello Ladies, HBO (2013): 20%

    26. Magic City, Starz (2012-2013): 20%

    27. The Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Showtime (2008-2011): 19%

    28. The Life & Times of Tim, HBO (2008-2012): 19%

    29. True Blood, HBO (2008-present): 18%

    30. Torchwood: Miracle Day, Starz (2011): 18%

    31. Da Vinci's Demons, Starz (2013-present): 18%

    32. Summer Heights High, HBO (2008): 18%

    33. Huff, Showtime (2004-2006): 18%

    34. Ray Donovan, Showtime (2013-present): 17%

    35. How to Make It in America, HBO (2010-2011): 17%

    36. Life's Too Short, HBO (2012): 17%

    37. Party Down, Starz (2009-2010): 17%

    38. Hung, HBO (2009-2011): 16%

    39. Veep, HBO (2012-present): 16%

    40. Boardwalk Empire, HBO (2010-present): 15%

    41. The Newsroom, HBO (2012-present): 15%

    42. Masters of Sex, Showtime (2013-present*): 15%

    43. Girls, HBO (2012-present): 15%

    44. Weeds, Showtime (2005-2012): 15%

    45. The Borgias, Showtime (2011-2013): 15%

    46. Luck, HBO (2012): 15%

    47. Family Tree, HBO (2013): 15%

    48. The United States of Tara, Showtime (2009-2011): 15%

    49. Episodes, Showtime (2011-present): 15%

    50. The Ricky Gervais Show, HBO (2010-2012): 15%

    51. Rome, HBO (2005-2007*): 14%

    52. Shameless, Showtime (2011-present): 14%

    53. Eastbound & Down, HBO (2009-2013): 14%

    54. Black Sails, Starz, (2014-present): 14%

    55. The Tudors, Showtime (2007-2010): 14%

    56. Little Britain USA, HBO (2008): 14%

    57. The Sopranos, HBO (1999-2007*): 13%

    58. Game of Thrones, HBO (2011-present): 13%

    59. Big Love, HBO (2006- 2011): 13%

    60. Deadwood, HBO (2004-2006*): 13%

    61. Silicon Valley, HBO (2014-present): 13%

    62. Nurse Jackie, Showtime (2009-present): 13%

    63. Californication, Showtime (2007-2014): 13%

    64. The Big C, Showtime (2010-2013): 13%

    65. Bored to Death, HBO (2009-2011): 13%

    66. Looking, HBO (2014-present): 13%

    67. Entourage, HBO (2004-2011*): 12%

    68. Lucky Louie, HBO (2006): 12%

    69. Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO (2000-present*): 12%

    70. Camelot, Starz (2011): 12%

    71. Tell Me You Love Me, HBO (2007): 12%

    72. Penny Dreadful, Showtime (2014-present): 12%

    73. Extras, HBO (2005-2007*): 12%

    74. Dexter, Showtime (2006-2013): 11%

    75. Flight of the Conchords, HBO (2007-2009): 11%

    76. True Detective (2014-present): 9%

    77. Homeland, Showtime (2011-present): 9%

    78. John From Cincinnati, HBO (2007): 8%

    Notes: Each Nielsen family designates what's called a "head of household," who can be a man or woman, and is at least 16. Nielsen also designates the race of the head of household, and that is the data used here.

    Miniseries, such as John Adams on HBO or Dancing on the Edge on Starz, are not included. And in case you're trying to remember when HBO's Six Feet Under and Sex and the City ended their runs, it was Aug. 2005 and Feb. 2004, respectively.