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How Inclusive Demographics Are Changing the TV Industry

November 5th, 2019   ||    by Oriana Schwindt

Social progress has led to quite an uptick in the groups given a voice in popular culture: although there is still much room left for improvement, women and people of color have made gains in representation both behind and in front of the camera, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Inclusive demographics have been a boon for films like Black Panther and shows like Fox’s once-a-big-hit Empire. Black Panther made $1.35 billion at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo, and Empire was the rare show that actually grew week-to-week in its first season, according to TV Series Finale.

Unfortunately, accurate measurement of the audience for these inclusive demographics has lagged. Until now, that is. Here’s how the TV industry is starting to better reflect the diverse American population.

Gender, Disability, and Race Inclusion

Reports like the UCLA one cited by the Los Angeles Times and coverage in influential trade publications like Variety are crucial to holding Hollywood accountable when it comes to inclusivity.

Shows like Amazon’s Transparent and FX’s Pose have led the charge for transgender visibility. Starz’s Vida, Netflix’s One Day at a Time, and The CW’s Jane the Virgin won much critical praise for their portrayals of Hispanic families, often incorporating elements of other cultures like the LGBTQ+ community.

Even disability advocates are finally seeing the needle move: shows like NBC’s Superstore feature characters that use a wheelchair, and Netflix’s Special has a gay protagonist with cerebral palsy.

These shows have provided ample opportunities for advertisers to become more inclusive and to think about how to make more inclusive products and commercials.

Local TV Wants to Lead the Way

Nielsen is still the standard upon which most TV ad deals rest. Its Portable People Meters, which measure a person’s out-of-home viewing, are being integrated into 25 Local People Meter markets, according to MediaPost.

But local TV stations are looking for an even more accurate way to count viewership. A way that marries the impressive delivery of TV with the rich data of tech platforms: impressions.

Local TV stations, long viewed as laggards when it comes to measurement, are being proactive about moving to impression-based measurement, according to Variety.

One of the major gripes about panel-based ratings is that they are only as good as their sample. Impressions reflect actual viewership, rather than projected viewership.

Better still for inclusion efforts, impressions capture the types of audiences who are multiplatform viewers. Younger audiences, who make up the majority of multiplatform users, according to the Advertising Research Foundation, are also more diverse than older ones. The millennial generation is 44 percent minority, according to the Brookings Institution. Gen Z, the generation after millennials, looks to be even more diverse, according to NPR.

Getting on Board With Progress

Social norms continuously evolve, and what we now consider to be definitively inclusive attitudes may yet be viewed as “not progressive enough” by subsequent generations. That is no reason to sit on the sidelines when it comes to not just attracting but accurately measuring diverse audiences.

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