The American Viewer: What We Get Wrong About Audience
Religion, race, income, education: new data shows who we actually are on the one-year anniversary of a seminal series
On a recent episode of the Bill Simmons podcast, author Chuck Klosterman offered a novel theory for why true-crime shows are so popular:
It’s the only time most Americans get a chance to see themselves on TV.
It was one of those ideas that was so good, I immediately got jealous I hadn’t thought of it. If you read my five-part series on the “The American Viewer” last year (and many of you did), then you know that I agree! Many people who work in this business live inside a bubble — mostly a wealthy, very college-educated bubble — and the challenge for everyone in Hollywood is recognizing that, adapting to it, and understanding our blind spots.
It’s been one year since I wrote that series, far and away the most popular thing I’ve ever written. Part 1 covered geography, age, race and gender; Part 2, politics, money and religion; Part 3, how and where we watch TV; Part 4, what types of shows are most popular, and which genres work best on streaming; and Part 5, which offered some prescriptive conclusions.
One year later, I am revisiting that series.
But I’m not going to be updating numbers and statistics. I don’t think the series would be very useful if the basic statistics on an “average American” fluctuated wildly from year to year. It would mean we can’t really trust the data.
Instead, I want to dive deeper into some topics I didn’t get to last year (like how many Americans go to college), provide some fascinating updates on a bunch of topics (like race), and look at two articles that challenge two statistics I used last year.
Overall, the biggest takeaway remains that a lot of perceptions of who America is— based on news coverage and especially, social media — don’t really hold up. That said, if one part of the entertainment industry is changing, it’s how we consume television. Now, the change isn’t as rapid as we assume — and as a lot of coverage implies—but it is real.
Also, as we continue to be “surprised” by things like Sound of Freedom, I’m also here to show you just how religious Americans are (maybe just not your neighbors and co-workers).
As Hollywood regroups during the strike, development teams eventually will come back in full force. I hope what I tell you today helps everyone program with more strategy.
Let’s dive into the data. In this article I will…
Dig into a fascinating part of race, where people change their identity over time
Provide new details on how very, very religious Americans are
Show you how the social media Hollywood thinks is most popular is dead wrong
Debunk at least one commonly held belief about work from home
The economic stressors on Americans Hollywood doesn’t consider
Reveal how people are watching TV — and as streaming plateaus, where the audience is actually going and growing
A warning that I think everyone needs to know