The protests in the latter half of 2020 stirred a renewed relevance about the lack of diverse representation and equity in society, including on television. As the media industry is a visible sector of where this gap and ongoing marginalization occurs, it will be an important player in fixing this problem.
While 62% of the TV viewing audience is white, they are less devoted watchers than the 36% of non-white viewers, according to the Ipsos TV Dailies survey. It begs the question: Would mainstream platforms have better viewership if non-white audiences were better represented?
It follows that having content that represents growing viewer groups, whether large or small, is important to appeal to them. When entertainment content has better representation, producers and brands can capture a greater share and more loyal viewers.
The Ipsos survey shows that Black Americans (44%) are disproportionately avid weekly viewers of TV content overall compared to white viewers (40%).
At the same time, Hispanic/Latino and Asian Pacific Islander communities currently under-index (39% and 37%, respectively) vs. white audiences (40%) when it comes to watching TV content weekly. This likely stems from two things:
1) They don’t see themselves or their stories in the mainstream. The laws of media economics dictate audiences flock where the content is. If these groups don’t see themselves in the content on the platforms they expect, they will have fewer reasons to gravitate toward these platforms. The work here will be for Hollywood to feature their stories more prominently in the mainstream.
2) They consume content elsewhere. These groups are also more likely to “skinny-bundle,” or buy smaller content access packages where they are better represented (i.e., via Hispanic or Spanish language-programming or Asian programming). Bringing these platforms or offerings into mainstream platforms may lead to better representation, as would bringing more brands into these more focused, culturally-driven platforms.
The recent TV and film awards-show season amplifies the mainstream success of the Asian- and female-directed film “Nomadland,” and streaming content that features African American stories and actors like “Soul,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Judas & The Black Messiah.” These don’t have to be niche, and if they become less niche, all audiences may come together.