In a new report on “Latino-led content and viewers,” Nielsen calls us “the building blocks for streaming’s success.”
The research was led by Cubana Stacie de Armas, Neilson’s senior vice president of Diverse Insights & Intelligence, who tells Latino Rebels her goal for the report was to “be the blueprint for the development and acquisition of more Latino content.”
“There is a very strong ROI for folks that greenlight content, for companies that acquire or distribute content to look very closely at the value of Latino-led content, both in front of and behind the camera and what it brings to their business,” she said.
Latinx people are the type of consumers that companies crave: young and engaged. The report opens with the fact that the most common age for Latinx people in the United States is 19, while among non-Latinx whites, it’s 61. Then the report goes on to show how we spend more time streaming content and are more satisfied with the experience.
So we’re the audience that media companies should be focusing on as they invest millions in online platforms.
And, as suspected, we like to see ourselves on screen. De Armas outlines what happens when platforms create and promote Latinx shows, using HBO’s Gordita Chronicles as an example. “That show brought all of these new viewers who previously had zero viewing of that platform… And then they stayed around and they watched more content after,” she explained.
The pattern proves and “amplifies the value of these shows in attracting new viewers,” thus making more dollars for the media companies who produce such shows.
Of course, we all know what happened to Gordita Chronicles — HBO canceled it after it had barely gotten started (if you’re reading this, new Latinx HBO subscribers, feel free to unsubscribe).
The Latinx audience have the market power, for top streaming shows and the most bingeable ones in particular. And Latinx viewers make up an oversized portion of not just the audience, but the creators as well. Of the 134 most bingeable shows, Latinx talent had a “significant contribution to the production” of 56 of them. That’s nearly 42 percent — higher than our share of the population (19 percent) and of shows where we’re behind the camera (eight percent).
So, when we take control, our streaming content is more likely to hook its audience and keep them glued to their screens for longer — whether they’re Latinx or not.
The numbers are even stronger when there are Latinx people on screen and in key decision-making roles, which the report defines as executive producer, writer, director, or showrunner. The people in these positions and their decisions can make or break a production, and when they bring cultural knowledge to their shows, “it makes the content more watchable,” argued de Armas.
“If there was something being filmed on Cuban content,” she explained as an example, “I could potentially add something like, ‘Hey, make sure they have a Materva. It’s okay if you don’t know what that is. But… it shouldn’t be a Diet Coke. It should be a Materva. And you should taste one, by the way — they’re delicious!'”
That quality where you feel seen by a show, where it recognizes, respects, and represents your experiences, is not something that can be faked. It has to be built in through a thousand little choices, which, for diverse Latinx audiences, requires diverse Latinx representation in leadership roles. The effect is particularly important because you wouldn’t necessarily know the director or writer was Latinx going in, but you’d experience their influence on the work in the end.
So, yes, there’s a lot of hope in Nielsen’s report, in that it makes a clear, business case for why companies should change their ways toward having Latinx people in front of and behind the camera, while providing a blueprint for how to do it.
But, this being a study on Latinx representation, there’s also some bad news. The genre Latinx people are currently most represented in, for instance, is “crime/crime drama” — something de Armas says is not “a point of pride” but rather a negative factor in “how we see ourselves… who we believe we can become, [and] how others perceive who we are and who we can be.” She juxtaposes that fact with what Latinx audiences watch and where we feel best represented: comedy.
So where can Hollywood look for examples to fix its ways? De Armas recommends stateside Spanish-language media, reminding us that “in Spanish-language television, Latinos are presented as everything: We are news tellers. We have permission to fall in love with anyone. We have stories about our marriages, our daughters, our children, our successes, our failures.”
And while speaking Spanish certainly doesn’t mean someone is not racist, “interestingly, Latin Spanish-language television has the best distribution of other identity groups,” said de Armas, citing LGBTQ and Afro-Latinos in particular.
So what do you say Hollywood? Do you think it’s time you learn to hablar español?
A writer and activist, Cristina Escobar is the co-founder of latinamedia.co, uplifting Latina and gender non-conforming Latinx perspectives in media. She’s a member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association and writes at the intersection of race, gender, and pop culture. Twitter: @cescobarandrade