Illuminative And Nielsen Unveil New Data On The Growth And Impact Of Native Content At The 2023 Sundance Film Festival

Illuminative And Nielsen Unveil New Data On The Growth And Impact Of Native Content At The 2023 Sundance Film Festival

EXCLUSIVE: Nielsen, the audience measurement, data and analytics organization unveiled today the findings of their case studies on Native content at a panel discussion in the Indigenous House at Sundance Film Festival, presented by IllumiNative, the Native woman-led social justice organization dedicated to building visibility and representation for Native peoples. 

The panel discussion explored the demand for Native content and how the need for Native-led storytelling has helped revitalize streaming and audience retention, as well as the nuance and complexity that Native-led shows bring to the screen. Featured speakers included Crystal Echo Hawk, Founder & Executive Director, IllumiNative, Tazbah Chavez, Writer/Director, Latasha Gillespie, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility for Amazon Studios and Prime Video, and Patricia Ratulangi, VP, Global Communications, DE&I, Nielsen.

“Visibility is power, and we as Native peoples know firsthand the importance of being seen and shown on screen in an authentic and equitable way,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and executive director of IllumiNative. “We’re so grateful for the researchers at Nielsen who helped bring this data to light and reaffirm what we’ve already known – Native representation and Native-led content is good for business. Both Native and non-Native audiences are hungry for Native-centered stories like the blockbuster hits Prey and Reservation Dogs, which helped reinvigorate the streaming industry. The long-standing myth that Native content doesn’t pay has been busted and Hollywood is now out of excuses. We have a long way to go to reach parity, but we are thrilled to celebrate where we are today through the historic accomplishments of Native creatives in the entertainment industry.”

During the panel discussion, Nielsen unveiled data from its Seen on Screen case studies regarding the impact of Native-led content, including Reservation Dogs (Hulu), Prey (Hulu), and Dark Winds (A&E), and the economic value they bring in terms of attracting new viewers and audience and platform retention. Among the key findings:

  • Only 1% of shows across all platforms feature Indigenous representation as a lead recurring character
  • Overall representation of Indigenous people is still below population parity but the number of Indigenous lead recurring roles increased 100% between 2021 and 2022

Looking at the return on investment of shows with Native American/Indigenous representation, content inclusive of Native peoples not only attracts new audiences, but also helps platforms retain them. Hulu’s Reservation Dogs received 1.4 million new viewers and had a 23% platform retention rate. This means that 23% of viewers who tuned in for the program stayed with the platform or network to view additional content. Hulu’s Prey received 5.9 million new viewers and had a 15% platform retention rate, and A&E’s Dark Winds received 2.8 million new viewers and had a 15% network retention rate. 

Native-centered stories were a blockbuster success and expanded streaming’s success – Prey was the #4 most-streamed film the week of its release and Native audiences accounted for 22 million viewing minutes during its premiere week, while Dark Winds viewers accounted for 6% of total network reach following its premiere. Additionally, Native-led content successfully attracted non-Native audiences. For example, Prey drew a 27% Hispanic audience, validating IllumiNative’s Reclaiming Native Truth research finding that 78% of Americans want to know more about Native peoples and support increased representation of Natives in television and film. 

“Native American and Indigenous representation on screen has been virtually nonexistent for too long,” said Pat Ratulangi, Nielsen’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. “As we have seen with shows and films like Reservation Dogs, Dark Winds, and Prey, authentic Native and Indigenous representation is attracting new audiences to media platforms and helping these platforms keep viewers. While the overall representation of Indigenous peoples is still below population parity, the entertainment industry is finally starting to understand the economic impact of investing in Native stories and storytellers.”

For more information on the Indigenous House, please contact [email protected]. For more on Nielsen’s Seen of Screen: Indigenous Representation, please visit here.