The American Viewer: Part 1
The first of four deep dives this week into who's watching our entertainment and how
A few months ago, Richard wrote a piece that perfectly captured a growing problem I’ve noticed for the last couple of years:
“The ruling clique of Hollywood — from elite backgrounds, elite education and living a cloistered existence here — managed to create a bubble in which the bosses of entertainment had almost nothing in common with, or direct knowledge of, their audiences.”
That sounds like a problem!
My only quibble with the above quote? I don’t think it’s just the “bosses” who are out-of-touch; almost everyone in this town is. You might be saying, “Well, I know what Americans like to watch.” To which I would ask:
How many people over the age of 55 watch Netflix?
How many Americans go to church each week?
How many Americans make more than $50,000 each year?
What was Netflix’s second most popular show this year?
How many people watch TV on a computer screen?
Perhaps you think you know the answers to these questions. According to YouGov, you probably don’t:
This poll confirms what I observe: people’s opinions are shaped by dominant voices and narratives in their media diets and peer groups. Algorithmic culture, additionally, has shaped our distortions, feeding us more of what we already consume. And even if someone doesn’t know the truth, they’re often over-confident in their accuracy.
So this week for The Ankler, in a four-part series on the American audience, in a special for paid subscribers only, I hope to reveal opportunity where we might have blind spots. My series is not meant as a rebuke or to make a political statement, but rather to ask (and answer) some big questions:
What does America actually look like demographically?
How do we actually watch television?
And what do we actually like to watch?
What do we get right/wrong about race, gender and politics?
The truth of much of this is at odds with the story the industry and the trade press constantly tells themselves about the audience.
Today’s edition is about the fundamentals around age, race, geography and gender that are often mischaracterized. Tomorrow, we look at the demographic categories of politics, income, education and religion. Let’s get to it…