Representation Is Finally Going Mainstream-ing

By Alexandra Bacchus

  • Black millennials stream videos more frequently than any other group

  • Of the 200 television series of the 2016-2017 season, only 13.7% of the writers were minorities

With unlimited storytelling space on streaming platforms, companies like Netflix (NFLX + 0.10%) are able to offer a wider variety of content representing multicultural audiences than network and cable television. Streaming services across the board are betting on representation by penning deals with the biggest names in black entertainment and culture as they look to have a bigger stake in the reported $1.2 trillion dollars in spending power African Americans possess.

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Why This Matters: Black millennials stream videos more frequently than any other group, but a very small percentage of the people writing those shows and movies are people of color. Of the 200 television series of the 2016-2017 season, only 13.7% of the writers were minorities, according to the dean of social sciences at UCLA, Darnell Hunt. Networks have argued that there isn’t a large market for minority content outside of minority audiences, but data says otherwise. Shonda Rhimes, the television producer who brought Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder to prime time brought in non-black viewership of 68% and 69%, respectively.

Black buying power is at $1.2 trillion, and video streaming services are only becoming more commonplace in American households

Black buying power is at $1.2 trillion, and video streaming services are only becoming more commonplace in American households. As more minorities subscribe to these convenient and content-rich services, it’s important that investment into representation grows with them. Netflix has established an overt focus on representation with their editorial arm, Strong Black Lead, which informs audiences about the content on their platform that are by or with black talent “@strongblacklead”.

Situational Awareness: Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay, and now the Obama’s are all making streaming more accessible by signing deals with platforms to offer a variety of content over the coming years. Michelle and Barack Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, will be offering fiction and nonfiction signature productions, as well as full-length features and documentaries. So sit back, click play, and show these streaming platforms what you really want to see.

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