Streaming platforms are becoming increasingly niche, responding to viewer pressure in a decentralized media landscape.
A new television channel catering specifically to South Africa’s mixed-race community has just launched. Onse will be the first Afrikaans TV channel to cater to its biracial community, which makes up 8.9% of the country’s population, a number equivalent to the country’s white population. The channel will mainly be broadcast in Afrikaans, but will also include some content in English.
“The socio-cultural depth of this demographic is varied and extensive and worthy of celebration and embrace,” says the network. “Onse TV is a channel by the people, for the people that opens up a whole new world of opportunities, job creation and involvement with the channel for people who have never had these opportunities before.”
While the channel may be considered controversial by some, it ultimately solves an issue of representation. Today, if existing platforms don’t feature or tell the stories of marginalized groups, new ones will. As described in The Future 100 2018, niche streaming platforms now offer content that targets and represents specific communities. African-American TV network Bounce launched Brown Sugar on Apple TV in July, a streaming platform focusing on the Blaxploitation genre. Similarly, Section II features lesbian films, while Dekkoo features content aimed at gay men, including the original series “Feral.”
The entertainment industry is dealing with the backlash for its lack of diversity, which has sparked a discussion around representation in Hollywood. Last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy led to a boycotting of the Oscars after only white actors were nominated in the top four categories, for the second year in a row. This boycott reflects wider concerns amid the entertainment industry, with diversity now part of the conversation in scripts, roles and both crew and cast.
Could new data and analytics tools help shed light on how different populations are represented? Streaming companies collect vast amounts of user data—far more than traditional cable companies. Perhaps as a result, they already seem more reflective of the diversity of their audience, with new programming like Insecure or White Famous. The Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (GD-IQ) is one such tool that harnesses new advancements in machine learning to analyze gender representation in media and advertising. (For more, download Gender Bias in Advertising, a study conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University and J. Walter Thompson New York.)
It’s important to appeal to a diverse audience—and not just because audiences want to see themselves represented in the content they consume. A report by Motion Picture Association of America found that although minorities account for 38% of the US population, they accounted for 49% of frequent moviegoers in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of Caucasian frequent moviegoers is decreasing. In terms of advertising, research by YouGov and BabyCenter found that 49% of millennial parents are more likely to talk to their friends about products that include more diverse family types in their ads, and 41% are more likely to purchase these products.
It’s high time to move towards diversity, and consider it as more than a box to tick. Diverse individual with diverse stories are demanding to be celebrated and embraced. If representation can’t be achieved through mainstream media, today’s decentralized media landscape demonstrates that viewers have plenty of other options.
Main image: Insecure