Jun 4, 2024 - Business

Meet the "Super Streamers" that could jolt the film and TV industry

Photo illustration of Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Constance Wu, Riz Ahmed, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, and Steven Yeun on a collage background of film strips and torn paper.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Getty Images.

American media companies are missing out on billions of dollars in revenue a year by neglecting to focus more on Asian American stories, according to the conclusions of three recent reports.

Why it matters: Broadcast, cable, streaming and Hollywood giants have been struggling to keep audiences consistently engaged in the current era of content production and consumption.

  • Their shows and films are fighting for attention against one another — and against platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, which have a nearly unlimited supply of creators and viewers.
  • After all, just about anyone with a phone can now make or watch videos cheaply or for free.

State of play: Streaming — the format that nearly every video organization is trying to make profitable — is the dominant form of TV consumption for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, according to Nielsen's newest study.

  • These "super streamers," as Nielsen calls them, spend 45.4% of their TV time on platforms like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.
  • The general U.S. population, in contrast, spends about 36% of their TV usage in the same way.

Between the lines: "The wealth of Asian-inclusive content, particularly on the top two platforms YouTube and Netflix, may contribute to the audience's streaming use," Nielsen vice president Patricia Ratulangi and her team write in their report, produced in partnership with the AAPI collective Gold House.

  • A separate Gold House and McKinsey study reached the same conclusion: "API consumers are already particularly engaged on streaming platforms, and producing and distributing API content in these channels could translate to greater engagement and revenue for the industry."

By the numbers: More than 80% of Hollywood executives surveyed by McKinsey agreed that increasing on-screen representation of Asian Americans could lead to Asian American households spending more on film and TV.

  • That new willingness translates to about an additional $2 billion a year.
  • And given population growth patterns, the value of additional spending by AAPI communities could rise to $4 billion to $8 billion a year by 2060.

Yes, but: Those numbers could underestimate the true impact because Asian communities aren't the only audiences interested in Asian American content.

  • A majority of Americans want more Asian American representation in entertainment, according to The Asian American Foundation's latest survey.
  • Specifically, 59% said they want to see more Asian Americans in dramas and 60% said in comedies.

The big picture: Production houses and distributors can feel there's more at risk when backing projects that are centered around marginalized communities. And that's despite evidence that Asian culture has broad appeal...

The bottom line: "We just need parity on 'at bats' and the room to test and fail without the takeaway being 'We tried it once and it failed, therefore, we are going back to what we typically do, with the same people we typically do it,'" Sanjay Sharma, CEO of Marginal MediaWorks, a media company based in Los Angeles, tells Axios.

  • "I think that is actually an existential problem if the studios and streamers operate that way."
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