Nielsen: Asian Representation in Streaming TV Shows Nearly Doubles

(Image credit: Nielsen)

NEW YORK—A new report from Nielsen has found a significant increase in the representation of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander in streaming TV shows in 2021. But the study also reported much lower representation in broadcast and TV shows and found that their overall representation in all the 1,500 top streaming, broadcast and cable TV shows covered by the study was less than their share of the U.S. population. 

The “2022 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Diverse Intelligence Series” Nielsen report found that SVOD led the way with 11% Asian share of screen compared to broadcast (3.2%) and cable (2.7%). 

Even so, the researchers noted that the presence of Asian talent in top-rated shows like “FBI”, “Equalizer,” and “Chicago Med,” and the debut of Asian-led programs like FOX's “The Cleaning Lady” indicate the industry is responding to growing calls for more Asian-inclusive content.

Overall, Asian representation across broadcast, cable and SVOD increased to 4.6% in 2021 (up from 3.5% in 2020). 

"The media industry continues to make progress in its inclusive representation of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) characters, themes and narratives," said Pat Ratulangi, Nielsen's vice president of diversity, equity & inclusion. "However, that representation on screen is still below the Asian population in the U.S. Now is an important time for the industry to highlight Asian characters, stories and experiences on screen through culturally inclusive programming. Accurate representation on screen can lead to greater understanding, inclusion, engagement and peace off-screen."

In the last two years, AANHPI representation in streaming has almost doubled from 6.1% in 2020 to 11% in 2021, the report found. 

This improvement, coupled with Asian American consumers' growing hunger for more authentic and representative content (two-thirds of Asians still feel there is not enough representation on TV), present an opportunity for more shows that highlight the richness of Asian American experience across platforms, the researchers said. 

The report notes a significant improvement in representation in the top 10 most-watched shows on broadcast and cable.

In 2021, half of the top 10 programs had some Asian talent representation, compared to 2020 when none of the top 10 most-watched shows did. Asian women were present in three of those shows (“NCIS,” “Equalizer” and “Yellowstone”)  and Asian men were present in two (“Chicago Med” and “FBI”).

Other key highlights in the 2022 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Diverse Intelligence Series include:

  • Streaming programs drove Asian multigenerational co-viewing. Gen Z co-viewing on Netflix was 4.3x higher than audiences overall. On Netflix, for example, 8.4% of Asian American viewers aged 18-24 watched with someone aged 65-74.
  • In 2021, there was a greater diversity of themes in shows with Asian representation — such as friendship, teamwork, and creativity — than in 2020 when the dominant themes were more stereotypical – cerebral, thoughtful, and good.
  • More than half of Asians surveyed said they are more likely to buy from a brand that advertises in shows that feature Asians, creating an incentive for advertisers to engage with this population.
  • A quarter of brands invest just 4% or less in the programs that represent Asians at parity, while the leaders for Asian-inclusive ad spending invest almost 10x as much.

The complete 2022 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Diverse Intelligence Series report is available here

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.