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Arts and Entertainment

Streaming Services Drive Growth In Asian American Representation On TV

Four Asian American women in formal dress stand on a stage with a giant screen behind them that displays photos of the cast of the Netflix show "Never Have I Ever."
Cast members attend the Never Have I Ever fan screening in Chicago in August.
(Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Netflix
/
Getty Images North America)
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Topline:

New research shows Asian American representation on TV is growing, most visibly on streaming services. Gains have been slower on the broadcast side like in local news. TV stations in top markets like L.A. do not have Asian American talent proportionate to the populations they serve.

Streaming spurs gains: TV representation of Asian immigrant characters more than doubled since 2020, according to a new study from USC’s Norman Lear Center and the immigrant advocacy group Define American. Among the shows the study spotlights is Netflix’s Never Have I Ever, a coming-of-age comedy series about an Indian American teen raised by her immigrant family.

Broadcast lags: A report released earlier this year by Nielsen found that Asian American representation was highest on streaming services (11% of roles) compared to 3.2% for broadcast. Lags on the broadcast side are evidenced in local TV news. The Asian American Journalists Association found that local news markets do not have on-air staff proportionate to its Asian population.

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Why it matters: Asian Americans are the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. but are underrepresented in entertainment and media. That leads to missed opportunities to boost trust and engagement with Asian audiences and to tell stories with cultural understanding. Research also indicates that multi-dimensional representations of Asians fosters greater empathy among non-Asian viewers.