I’m always interested in who television networks try to cater to, in contrast to who their actual audiences are. If networks were solidifying their core audiences on traditional set-top viewing, according to a new set of figures released by Nielsen, they should be courting women and African-American viewers. Women ages 18-34 are watching 4:04 hours of television each day, in contrast to men the same age, who watch three hours and thirty-eight minutes of television per day, though they spend more time on gaming consoles. African-American television viewers substantially outpace viewers of every other race or ethnicity: they watch 210 hours and 7 minutes of set-top television per month, in comparison to white viewers, who spend 152:57 per month, Hispanic viewers, who watch 131:19 hours of television per month, and Asian viewers, who watch 100 hours of television per month.
Of course, networks tend to chase what they don’t already have, but even if that was the case, Asian and Hispanic viewers have more hours to add in their schedule, and particularly in the case of Hispanic viewers, who are among the fastest-growing demographics in the country. The New York Times noted in an August story that networks want to reach Hispanic viewers, but it’s self-evidently bizarre that they think that using exaggerated tropes, like Sofia Vergara’s performance on Modern Family or Rob Schneider’s Rob, about his character’s marriage into a Mexican extended family, would be the way to do that. It’s one thing to cater to white audiences who are adjusting to the fact that they have more Latino people in their lives, and another to make programming that’s designed to appeal to Latinos themselves.
I also wonder if networks are more comfortable, for whatever reason, with shows that have African-American characters who are allowed to just be people, while they still rely on Latino characters to represent tropes. I’ve mentioned Go On a couple of times as a show that I think is doing diversity right, and that holds for its Latina character, Fausta. She speaks Spanish some of the time on the show (the Times story noted that Latino viewers show some preferences for Spanish-language programming over English-language programming), but not because it’s a way for her to be exaggerated. Rather than presenting her as exaggerated or overemotional, Fausta’s actually somewhat subdued, which makes sense, given that she’s in the show’s support group after losing much of her family. She’s both just a person, and blessedly, a full person, or as full as a character can get after two episodes of a sitcom dominated by Matthew Perry. But it’s a promising start, and I’ll be curious to see what happens to Go On‘s Latino viewership if the show lasts and the character gains some traction.