Audiences demand more of the media and entertainment industry in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and will reward progress with trust and loyalty.
Stories help us learn, dream and build common understanding within and across cultures. Media and entertainment companies are our modern storytellers, creating and distributing shared experiences that can bring us together. We, the audience, judge progress – whether we see ourselves portrayed and how, and whether companies are creating communities and leading conversations.
To help media and entertainment leaders to understand where the gaps in representation exist today and what the stakes are, the World Economic Forum is proud to share a first-of-its-kind cross-media sector index that measures audience perceptions of representation.
The Audience Representation Index provides a benchmark of how well consumers of media and entertainment content see themselves represented in film and TV, gaming, news and magazines, and sport, and whether companies within these sectors are contributing to communities and society.
Data from this research, fielded by Ipsos, shows that diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is good for business; for brands with a 10-point higher Audience Representation Index score, there was a 30% higher likelihood that consumers would trust the brand. While representation is important to everyone, it means even more to those who have historically been under-represented and this affects consumer habits.
For example, 51% of women are more likely to trust brands that represent a diverse range of people, while 64% of black respondents in the UK and 67% of black respondents in the US tend to engage with brands more frequently if they are inclusive of diverse perspectives.
Audiences scored industry sectors against four dimensions: who they represent in content (equitable representation); how they are represented (authentic representation); whether the company builds community (community building); and whether companies drive broader DE&I impact through corporate action (societal impact).
Participants across all sectors and geographies ranked societal impact as the most important of the four dimensions, underscoring that brand behaviour matters. Each of these areas has been given a score on a 100-point scale based on responses, both for media and entertainment overall and by individual sectors. The results indicate that the media and entertainment industry has a clear need and an opportunity to improve across sectors and geographies (the US, UK and France).
No sector yet demonstrates a leading level of maturity (scoring 75–100). The average composite score for the industry across all dimensions is 54.6. Gaming lags behind the rest of the industry on 49.1, while film and TV leads (on 58.5). Across all sectors and index components, older audiences (aged 55-plus) saw themselves as under-represented when compared to audiences aged 18–34, a pronounced gap that highlights opportunities to better serve ageing populations.
LGBTQ+ audiences also struggle to see themselves in content, which presents real potential for increased brand loyalty as half of LGTBQ+ participants said they would stop using a product or service they deemed to be non-inclusive. The Ipsos research reinforces that persistent gender representation gaps exist within the gaming and sport sectors. Across all sectors and identity groups, it will be important to track progress over time to measure the audience and business impact of DE&I investments in the industry.
The Audience Representation Index also illustrates the audience impact of targeted action. Film and TV has made significant investments in in-content diversity and, correspondingly, many racial and ethnic minority respondents reacted positively regarding equitable representation within the sector. In gaming, focused efforts on accessibility correspond to more positive attitudes among people with disabilities.
Progress is possible within representation, and it is crucial when it comes to creating content in which everyone can see themselves.
Based on findings from the 2022 Audience Representation Index, we recommend that members of the media and entertainment industry:
– Use audience perceptions to identify shortcomings and set clear representation priorities within their organisation
– Look holistically at efforts across content, community and corporate social responsibility
– Connect DE&I to clear business key performance indicators (KPIs) and measure progress over time
– Work collectively to develop talent and fund programmes that serve and include diverse groups
– Look thoughtfully at multiple identity groups and bring all of them on the journey equitably
This report provides data and insights for industry leaders to act and drive financial and societal benefits.
Cathy Li is Head of Media, Entertainment and Sport Industries at the World Economic Forum. This report was produced in collaboration with Accenture, Ipsos and Nielsen, and aims to amplify the voice of the audience and improve the state of measurement, transparency and accountability across the media and entertainment industries. The World Economic Forum’s Audience Representation Index report can be downloaded here.
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