The New Mainstream: 28% of TV Watching Spent on LGBT-Inclusive Shows


October 27, 2011

Audiences and advertisers alike are flocking to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT)-inclusive programs. Representing 24 percent of broadcast primetime scripted and reality shows last season, these series garnered 28 percent of broadcast primetime TV viewing and 22 percent of ad dollars, according to Nielsen data. According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the presence of regularly-appearing LGBT characters accounted for 3.9 percent of all scripted series regular characters during the 2010-2011 season, reaching a record high.

Scripted Shows for Teens, Realities for Older Females
Teen and Millennial viewers in particular dedicated over a third of their primetime scripted TV viewing to series depicting at least one regular or recurring LGBT character.* Females 50 and older were attracted to realities featuring LGBT cast-members, hosts, judges and/or competitors, dedicating a significant share of their reality TV time to these programs.* Overall, one in four scripted series and one in five reality shows were LGBT-inclusive.

“The inclusion of LGBT characters on TV more accurately portrays the diverse and multicultural society we live in by encompassing all segments of the population,” said Matt O’Grady, EVP, Audience Measurement, Nielsen.

LGBT-Inclusive Programs Share

LGBT-Inclusive Shows Attract Dynamic Audiences
Audiences for LGBT-inclusive shows were as diverse as the programs themselves, though certain demographics appear to have been more exposed to LGBT images. Within the 25-49 age demographic, LGBT-inclusive programs (and its advertisers) were most likely to reach:

  • College-educated white females
  • Small white collar households
  • Budding families (those with 3 or fewer members)

Non-white, professional Millennials without children also tended to watch LGBT-inclusive shows more frequently than primetime in general.

LGBT-Inclusive characters were incorporated into shows that skewed towards Eastern and Pacific viewers and were less watched by Midwesterners. This differential was most pronounced among 18-24 year olds in the Midwest, especially when compared to 18-24 year olds in other regions of the U.S.

Motion Pictures and Department Stores Drive Advertising
LGBT characters and plots were woven into some of the most popular broadcast primetime programs last season, and advertisers were investing their budgets there too. Motion pictures and department stores were the top categories that drove advertising on LGBT-inclusive programming, devoting 28.3 percent and 27.6 percent of their ad dollars, respectively.

Credit cards, telephone, and tech companies also spent a significant share of ad dollars with LGBT-friendly programs. Of the top 10 overall advertising categories, retail and pharmaceuticals dedicated less of their ad budgets to these shows than they did on the average for all categories.

Top Ad Spending Categories

*This list was determined by GLAAD in conjunction with their Where We Are On TV Report: 2010-2011 Season, and includes scripted programs such as Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, 90210, Glee and House, as well as reality shows such as Dancing with the Stars and Big Brother 12. GLAAD’s Where We Are on TV Report: 2011-2012 is now available at www.glaad.org.


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