Finding Diversity on Streaming Services

Multicultural viewers are moving toward streaming services to find diverse images on television as they look to the media in general to shoot down lingering and hurtful stereotypes, according to a new Horowitz Research study.

The Horowitz State of Viewing & Streaming 2020 study reports that 55% of all viewers who view programming on streaming services and linear television say outlets such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus do a better job of showcasing stories about and by people of color than broadcast and cable.

Horowitz found that 55% of all viewers say streaming services do a better job of promoting diverse stories through shows like Netflix’s Family Reunion.

Horowitz found that 55% of all viewers say streaming services do a better job of promoting diverse stories through shows like Netflix’s Family Reunion.

The shares increase among multicultural viewers: 58% of African-Americans, 61% of Hispanics and 64% of Asian-Americans say that streaming services are doing a better job of promoting diverse stories and images, according to the report.

Overall, the survey said 62% of viewers believe that representation of diverse segments of the population within the mainstream media has been improving, with both multicultural audiences and white audiences also pacing above the 60% range.

Horowitz senior VP of insights and strategy Adriana Waterston said the ability of the streaming services to offer much more content than traditional TV services, along with their ability to better market and promote content to multicultural audiences, gives their platforms a distinct advantage in reaching diverse viewer groups.

“Black, Asian and Hispanic consumers are heavy streamers, so they are finding more content that they resonate with through streaming services more than on traditional television,” Waterston said.

The Horowitz survey follows Nielsen’s 2019 Diverse Intelligence Series (DIS) Report, which showed that nearly 40% of African-American viewers subscribe to Netflix followed by Hulu at 15% and Amazon Prime Video at 14%. Cheryl Grace, Nielsen’s senior VP of U.S. strategic community alliances and consumer engagement, said streamers are just scratching the service on the amount of multicultural-themed programs they can offer.

“There’s still a ton of room to grow on the digital side,” Grace said. “It’s wonderful to have options and be able to turn on the TV and find people who look like me.”

But it’s not just the amount of content multicultural viewers are looking for from streaming services and traditional television outlets. Viewers are also looking for programmers to help dispel stereotypes about multicultural populations.

Nearly 70% of viewers said it’s important for the media to represent diverse people and communities in America in ways that bust stereotypes, according to Horowitz. Further, 57% of non-Hispanic white viewers agree that the media plays a very big role in reinforcing stereotypes, according to the survey.

“We’ve heard from multicultural viewers that it’s not just the amount of faces, but it’s also about how they are represented, from how they are portrayed in the news to what roles they play in shows,” Waterston said. “What’s interesting is that we’re seeing a growing awareness of the issue from white, non-Hispanic audiences who are saying that the story doesn’t have to have characters that look like me to be entertaining to me.” 

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.