Horowitz: Asian-Americans Spend More Time Streaming Content Than Watching Live TV

Asian-Americans are shunning traditional TV for streaming services, with YouTube among their top streaming choices, according to a new Horowitz Research report.

On average, Asian TV viewers spend 44% of their time streaming video content, compared to just 38% of their time watching live TV, according to Horowitz’s Focus Asian: The Media Landscape 2018 report. That compares to 35% of total viewers who spend their time streaming compared to 43% devoted to live TV, according to the report.

Further, a full 14% of Asian TV viewers spend upwards of 75% of their viewing time with streamed content compared to 7% of consumers overall.

The numbers are not surprising. While shows like CBS’ Hawaii Five-0, ABC’s Fresh From The Boat and HBO’s Silicon Valley feature multiple Asian-American actors in starring roles -- and with Sandra Oh earlier this year becoming the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for a best actress Emmy award for her role in BBC America’s Killing Eve -- Asian Americans remain woefully underrepresented on the small screen.

While there are more than 21 million Americans of Asian descent in the US according to the US Census Bureau, only 4% of television series regulars were Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, according to a 2017 study on Asian American characters on television dubbed “Tokens On The Small Screen." Further, a full 64% of shows not featuring a single AAPI series regular, according to the multi-university report. 

"The Asian audience has long posed a challenge for traditional TV providers ...there has always been a market for in-language and culturally relevant content, but the linguistic and cultural diversity of the Asian market has made scalability a hurdle,” said Adriana Waterston, Horowitz’s senior vice president of Insights and Strategy. ““This is why we saw that even before broadband and YouTube, bilingual and Asian-language dominant Asian audiences were going online to find the content they wanted.”

When Asian-Americans stream, YouTube and Netflix are the most popular choices. According to the report, Asian streamers watch Netflix 29% of the time and YouTube 28% of the time.

The affinity for YouTube in particular is driven by bilingual and Asian-language dominant viewers looking for content that reflects their images and stories. Among English dominant Asians, 15% report going to YouTube first while 29% of bilingual and Asian-language dominant viewers go to YouTube first.

YouTube historically has served as a platform for Asian-American stars to become household names around the world, from Natalie Tran to Anna Akana, by providing an outlet for Asian Americans to showcase their talent. .

“When YouTube first started its main stars were predominantly Asian … and people were asking, 'why are all the stars on YouTube Asian?,'” Akana recently told me in an interview. “I think it’s because we lacked such mainstream representation that when we saw a face that looked like us doing comedy or doing lifestyle videos we were drawn to it.”

RELATED: Youtube Star Annak Akana Finds Herself A New Script

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.