WarnerMedia Appoints Asif Sadiq SVP, Equity And Inclusion, International

WarnerMedia has named London-based Asif Sadiq to the newly created role of SVP of equity and inclusion, international. The announcement was made by Christy Haubegger, EVP of communications and chief inclusion officer, to whom Sadiq will directly report.

Sadiq will be based in London and joins the Equity and Inclusion leadership in implementing a comprehensive strategy to address all aspects of diversity across the company’s workforce, programs, content, suppliers, and community, working closely with Gerhard Zeiler, head of WarnerMedia International, and his international leadership team.

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“Asif’s proven track record and innovation around equity and inclusion makes him the ideal choice as we continue to build on WarnerMedia’s global strategy towards an equitable and inclusive company,” Haubegger said in a statement. “We know his experience and knowledge will aid us greatly in our efforts to advance business growth through an inclusive workforce and content that reflects the global audience we serve.”

Sadiq has a long career in the diversity and inclusion space with senior executive roles at adidas, The Telegraph Media Group, EY Financial Services and the City of London Police. He has reportedly been named as one of the most influential Global D&I Leaders by Hive Learning and occupies a place on the CIPD’s Top 20 Power List.  He is a winner of numerous awards including the highly commended Head of Diversity Award at the European Diversity Awards and was honored with an MBE in 2017 by the Queen and granted the freedom of the City of London in 2016.

In addition to his accolades, Sadiq is currently a leadership fellow at St George’s House at Windsor Castle, co-author of “Global Diversity Management” and “Diversity Management that Works,” and an Alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) which is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program.

Nielsen to Track Content Diversity in Hollywood

Nielsen Feb. 17 announced it is partnering with entertainment metadata tracker Gracenote to record visibility into the gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation of talent appearing in TV programming and the audiences watching it. Dubbed Gracenote Inclusion Analytics, the new software aims to give content creators, owners, distributors and advertisers data around on-screen diversity and representation to enable more inclusive content. Future enhancements will expand product coverage to include theatrical movies as well as behind-the-camera talent including directors, producers, writers and other key roles.

Nielsen said the information will enable distributors to highlight content within their catalogs featuring diverse female leads for Women’s History Month or fuel recommendations connecting audiences of diverse content. A studio could evaluate whether its content meets diversity, equity and inclusion benchmarks — highlighting programs for licensing opportunities. Similarly, a brand could identify and target the most inclusive content to inform its ad investment or product placement decisions.

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“The entertainment industry has a massive challenge ahead — to ensure the talent associated with popular TV programming mirrors today’s increasingly diverse viewing audiences,” Sandra Sims-Williams, SVP of diversity, equity and inclusion at Nielsen, said in a statement. “By democratizing information around representation in content, Gracenote Inclusion Analytics holds the power to push the industry toward better balance and a more equitable future.”

According to a recent Nielsen report, women make up 52% of the U.S. population but comprise only 38% of top recurring cast in popular broadcast, cable and streaming programming. At the same time, people of color account for 40% of the broader population, but are present in only 27% of top TV roles. These data points highlight significant imbalances between representation in content and key audience groups which, by addressing, would serve to accelerate equity in entertainment.

The new industry tracker combines Gracenote’s video program metadata and ethnicity data with Nielsen television ratings and SVOD content ratings. Based on these inputs, the software delivers proprietary metrics assessing the degree to which different identity groups are featured in programming and how evenly this reflects viewing audiences. These include:

  • Share of Screen quantifying an identity group’s (e.g., women, LGBTQ, Black) representation among the top recurring talent
  • Inclusion Opportunity Index comparing share of screen for an identity group (e.g., women) to their representation in population estimates
  • Inclusion Audience Index comparing share of screen for a group to their representation in the program’s viewing audience

 

“Audiences today actively seek out programs that highlight people who resemble them and experiences that reflect their own,” said Tina Wilson, head of analytics at Nielsen. “Under these circumstances, it’s critical that the entertainment industry create authentic content which resonates with underrepresented groups. Together, Nielsen and Gracenote are uniquely positioned to help the industry seize upon this opportunity by way of new data analytics solutions ensuring meaningful connections between content and audiences.”

 

Netflix Releases First Inclusion Report: Women in 50% of Leadership Roles

As Media Play News‘ annual “Women in Home Entertainment” issue will tell you, Netflix has long been a promoter of female executives in the workplace.

The SVOD pioneer Jan. 13 released its first-ever inclusion report indicating women make up half of its workforce (47.1%), including at the leadership level: directors and above (47.8%), vice presidents (43.7%) and senior leadership (47.6%).

Nearly half of the U.S. workforce (46.4%) and leadership (42%, director level and above) are made up of people from one or more underrepresented racial and/or ethnic backgrounds, including Black, Latinx or Hispanic, Indigenous, Middle Eastern, Asian and Pacific Islander backgrounds.

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The number of Black employees in the U.S. doubled in the last three years to 8% of our workforce and 9% of our leadership (director level and above).

The data is based as of October 2020 on about 8,000 full-time streaming employees. Netflix has been releasing quarterly diversity information and statistics on its job site since 2013.

But when the SVOD behemoth in 2017 first looked in the mirror regarding diversity, it wasn’t a pretty picture, according to Vernā Myers, who was hired VP of Inclusion Strategy to right the ship.

“We weren’t as great as we thought we were, or aspired to be,” Myers wrote in the report. “And over these last two years, our inclusion team has been building a foundation, sowing the seeds for inclusion to take root within the company.”

Myers said the Netflix still has work to do recruiting Hispanic or Latinx and other underrepresented folks into all areas of the company, particularly leadership. In addition, Myers said Netflix is working on improving inclusion within the company’s foreign offices.

“We’ve started by adding Cassi Mecchi to the inclusion team to lead this work for our Europe, Middle East and Africa teams,” Myers said. “We will add team members in the Asia Pacific and Latin America regions in 2021.”

Disney+ Expands Disclaimers for Racially Problematic Movies

Disney+ has quietly beefed up its warnings on select classic movies that may feature content that could be interpreted as racially insensitive. Movies reportedly affected include Dumbo, Peter Pan, Fantasia and Lady and the Tramp. A 10-second warning placed in front of the film states it features racial depictions that were inappropriate when the movie first debuted, and are inappropriate today.

The disclaimer is also part of the film’s profile page and encourages viewers to visit a link outlining how movies can showcase popular culture and how society sees itself in a given moment in time. The “Stories Matter” link includes a PSA and video clip featuring statements by Geena Davis, Gil Robertson, Gloria Calderón Kellett and Cristela Alonzo stressing the importance of diversity and inclusion in the media and society.

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Disney had been including disclaimers that older movies might contain “outdated cultural depictions” since it launched in November 2019. The addition of the warnings to the films themselves mirrors efforts by HBO Max over the summer to remove Oscar-winning classic Gone With the Wind from the SVOD platform. The movie was returned to Max with a disclaimer that it “denies the horrors of slavery.”

Disney’s infamous 1946 musical classic Song of the South is not available on the subscription streaming platform due to racial stereotypes and criticisms over its depictions of former slaves.

Study: Demand for Diverse Scripted TV Content Surpasses Non-Diverse

Since 2017, diverse debuts — scripted TV titles in which at least 40% of the cast is categorized as diverse — have grown to surpass non-diverse titles, according to a new joint study from Creative Artists Agency and Parrot Analytics.

Meanwhile, between 2017 and 2019, the demand for diverse debuts among Parrot Analytics Top 100 most in-demand scripted debuts in the United States doubled, surpassing non-diverse titles for the first time, according to the study.

“This study solidifies what we’ve known for some time — diversity wins onscreen,” Kevin Huvane, co-chairman of CAA, said in a statement. “CAA will continue leading the industry in prioritizing diversity in our client work, while also encouraging storytellers and business partners to tell stories onscreen that authentically represent the audiences who are watching.”

“We are proud to partner with CAA to help move the industry toward a more equitable future for all talent,” Wared Seger, CEO and co-founder of Parrot Analytics, said in a statement. “We remain committed to our long-term objective to showcase the value of diversity and inclusion as we continue to unlock the magic of content for our partners around the globe.”

The study further demonstrated that diverse tentpoles, defined as the top 25 most in-demand U.S. scripted debuts in any given year, have taken the lead in demand over non-diverse tentpoles.

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Still, not all racial and ethnic groups are equally well represented in scripted debuts, according to the study. Despite being one of the fastest growing demographics in the United States, Hispanics and Latinos were significantly underrepresented. While 18% of the U.S. population is Hispanic or Latino (U.S. Census 2019), the demo represented only 5% of actors in scripted debuts for the 2017-2019 period. Conversely, the study found that whites were overrepresented with 60% of the population per the census and 65% of talent.

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“Successful shows today are at least as diverse as the U.S. population,” said Parrot Analytics insights analyst Dr. Nicole Zamanzadeh.

Additional findings include:

  • U.S. demand for “Euphoria” was 27 times greater than the average U.S. title as of October 2020, according to the study.
  • Audience demand for shows with diverse casts (+112.5%) has grown faster than the industry’s supply of shows with diverse casts (+42%).
  • Since 2017, the demand for highly diverse debuts (above 60% cast diversity) has more than tripled (+211%), outperforming both non-diverse debuts (below 40% cast diversity) and moderately diverse debuts (greater than 40% but less than 60% cast diversity).
  • In the study, only diverse broadcast debuts consistently outperformed and were more in-demand than non-diverse debuts between 2017 and 2019.
  • The portion of broadcast debuts’ diverse series regular talent has steadily remained above 40%, the highest of any platform.
  • Since 2017, cable’s diverse debuts have more than doubled in demand.
  • While demand for diverse debuts has doubled, cable’s talent diversity in its debut’s series regular casts has slightly declined.
  • In 2019, for the first time, streamers’ diverse debuts were more in-demand than their non-diverse debuts.
  • Streamers have steadily increased their percentage of talent diversity in debut series regular casts.
  • Streamers’ increasing number of highly diverse debuts (more than 60% diverse cast) corresponds with a greater share of streaming titles in the top 100 debuts. Streamers released 2.5 times more highly diverse debuts in 2019 than 2017.

HBO Streaming Aspiring Directorial Pilots

Taking an earlier page from Amazon Studios, HBO has begun streaming directorial shorts from aspiring directors on its SVOD platform HBO Now and TVOD service HBO Go.

HBO Access Directing Fellowship selects three-to-four fellows to participate in a biennial program designed to foster diverse directing talent. The program includes a series of master classes, which lead into the production of pilots.

Delivered by industry professionals both internal and external to HBO, the classes cover a variety of subjects including creative topics such as story and character, as well as the technical aspects of production and post.

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Upon completion of the course, the fellows are given a budget and crew to direct a short presentation allowing them full immersion in a true industry production.

HBO said it would continue to support the directors by screening the films for the entertainment community and offering shadowing opportunities on HBO series.

Pilots include:

HALFWAY | Run Time: 16:21
Written & Created by Katherine Craft
Directed by Carey Williams

Recently released from prison, Krystal must navigate the new rules and strong personalities of her local Christian halfway house if she has any hope of regaining custody of her estranged daughter.

 

 

UNIMUNDO 45 | Run Time: 13:38
Written & Created by Claudia Forestieri
Directed by Thembi Banks

When her parents threaten to self-deport, a jaded Latina news producer sheds her cynicism and becomes an activist — on live TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

STERLING | Run Time: 20:12
Written & Created by Bryce Ahart & Stephanie McFarlane
Directed by Ryan Zaragoza

A small West Texas town struggles to pick up the pieces after a devastating mass shooting at their local high school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Director bios:

Carey Williams — Recently hailed by Filmmaker Magazine as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film, Williams is currently in pre-production on his first feature, R#J, with Timur Bekmambetov, a participant in the NBC Emerging Directors Program and has set up the feature version of his award-winning short film, “Emergency.”

Thembi Banks — Born in Harlem New York, Banks is an award-winning writer/director who received her MFA from USC’s Film & TV Production program. Banks was a 2017 directing fellow at Film Independent’s Project Involve, she was also a 2018 HBO Access Directing Fellow, a 2019 Ryan Murphy Half Initiative Directing Fellow and a participant in Powder Keg’s inaugural female directing program, created by Paul Feig.

She will be making her feature film directorial debut with Young. Wild. Free written by Juel Taylor in 2020 and is currently writing a feature for Universal Studios with Malcolm D. Lee attached to produce and direct. Her most recent television directing credit is on Issa Rae’s show “Insecure.”

Ryan Zaragoza — Zaragoza is a writer/director originally from El Paso, Texas. He’s an alumni of Ryan Murphy’s HALF Initiative, WBTV Director’s Program, and HBO Access, where he directed Sterling, which premiered at SXSW. Zaragoza is currently directing an episode of “All American” season 2, and is slated to direct an episode of “Animal Kingdom” in early 2020.

Writer bios:

Claudia Forestieri is a bilingual, biracial TV writer of Dominican-Italian descent who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami. Her storytelling career began in the world of news where she served as a reporter and producer for Telemundo stations in Miami, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

She broke into TV writing in 2017 and has since staffed on Freeform’s “Good Trouble” and Netflix’s “Selena: The Series.”

Katherine Craft is a playwright, screenwriter, and Texas native. She’s the creator of “Kappa Crypto,” a Snap Original series, currently streaming on Snapchat. She’s also the founder of Conspire Theatre, a prison theater program that worked with women during and post-incarceration. Her short films have played in the Tribeca Film Festival, PBS Online Film Festival, and the LA Asian Pacific American Film Festival, among others.

Bryce Ahart and Stephanie McFarlane are both alums of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where they each graduated Cum Laude from the Dramatic Writing Department. After completing the 2017–2018 HBO Access Writer’s Fellowship, they went on to staff on The CW’s “Legacies.” Most recently, their pilot, “Sterling,” premiered at SXSW and is currently continuing the festival circuit.

Post Kevin Tsujihara, WarnerMedia Releases First Diversity Report

WarnerMedia Sept. 26 released its first-ever annual report looking at diversity, inclusion and belonging across both its corporate operations and the films, television series and digital content created by its various production businesses.

In September 2018, WarnerMedia announced a “production diversity policy,” which included the commitment to report on its diversity and inclusion efforts annually.

The policy was partially in response to the fallout following the resignation of former Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who left the studio after revelations of an extramarital affair with an aspiring actress.

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Earlier this year, WarnerMedia hired its first chief enterprise inclusion officer, Christy Haubegger, saying her leadership would be key to expanding and developing initiatives designed to make the company and its content more diverse and inclusive.

The report, covering 2018, highlighted three areas at WarnerMedia: workforce (including workforce composition, employee resource groups), content (including scripted TV, films, news, animation) and community (including industry and local outreach partnerships and programs).

Among the key findings related to workforce and production staffing:

WarnerMedia’s global workforce is 54% male and 46% female, and its U.S. workforce is 53% male and 47% female.

Globally, half of all new hires and promotions to VP and above were women.

About 42% of non-managers were people of color, but representation decreased at more senior levels. However, the percentage of people of color who were hired or promoted in 2018 exceeded their total percentage across all levels.

“This will lead to increased representation going forward,” read the report.

Across WarnerMedia’s non-film scripted programming, females represented 34% of onscreen roles and 23% of behind-the-camera positions.

Across WarnerMedia’s non-film scripted programming, people of color represented 24% of onscreen roles and 23% of behind-the-camera positions.

“[At] WarnerMedia companies, we have a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and consider these values an important part of our culture and a business priority,” John Stankey, COO of AT&T and CEO, WarnerMedia, said in a statement.

“While I’m incredibly proud of what this report shows and our ongoing dedication to transparency, I recognize that we’ve got more work to do at every level. We know diversity, inclusion and belonging are important to our employees, our creative partners, our customers and to our success.”

Indeed, the report underscored various examples of diversity and inclusion in action, including spotlights on various employee resource groups (Black Professionals@Turner, HBO Proud, Women of Warner UK and others), employee-centric content and platforms showcasing D&I activities across the enterprise (Warner Bros.’ “We See You,” Turner’s “Hello, My Name Is…” and “HBO POV”) and a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s films, TV shows and animated series.

While the report only tracked gender and race, WarnerMedia said it is developing new processes, tools and formats for gathering more detailed information about the diversity of its workforce and productions, allowing it to better tailor its efforts and outreach.

Going forward, the annual report will look at data from the previous full calendar year, and will evolve to reflect the changes taking place across WarnerMedia’s businesses.

WarnerMedia Creating Diversity/Inclusion Executive Position

WarnerMedia is set to create a new executive position focusing on diversity and inclusion issues. While no one has yet been hired to become the former Time Warner company’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer, the move was reportedly outlined in a March 20 staff memo from CEO John Stankey.

“During the Global Town Hall meeting [last September], I was asked about the lack of women and diversity on stage,” wrote Stankey. “I understand how important this is. In order for WarnerMedia to be the best company we can be, we have to include diverse voices at every level of our business. And while we already have some of the most talented women and diverse executives in the industry, we have more work to do.”

The chief diversity and inclusion officer will report directly to Stankey.

John Stankey

The new executive position follows restructuring among WarnerMedia, that has seen bosses at Warner Bros., HBO and Turner depart — including the former’s CEO Kevin Tsujihara exit March 18 following a story in The Hollywood Reporter about his affair with actress Charlotte Kirk.

Warner Bros. is now headed by an interim management team consisting of Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group chairman, Peter Roth, Warner Bros. Television Group president and CCO; and CFO Kim Williams.

“There is no silver bullet to get us to where we need to be, but the leaders across our company are committed to working together to make the changes necessary as we build on our foundation towards greater progress,” Stankey wrote. “I believe that our new structure will enable us to do even more to achieve these objectives.”

 

 

Netflix Hires Verna Myers as Inclusion VP

Netflix has hired Verna Myers as VP, Inclusion Strategy.

In this newly created role, Myers will help devise and implement strategies that integrate cultural diversity, inclusion and equity into all aspects of Netflix’s operations worldwide, according to the company.

For the past two decades, through The Verna Myers Company, she has consulted with a wide range of major corporations and organizations on how to help eradicate barriers based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and other differences and to make more just, compassionate, and productive work environments, Netflix announced.

“Having worked closely with Verna as a consultant on a range of organizational issues, we are thrilled that she has agreed to bring her talents to this new and important role,” said Jessica Neal, Netflix chief talent officer, in a statement. “As a global company dedicated to attracting the best people and representing a broad range of perspectives, Verna will be an invaluable champion of our efforts to build a culture where all employees thrive.”

“I have been a longtime fan of the inclusive and diverse programming and talent at Netflix, and then I got a chance to meet the people behind the screen. I was so impressed by their mission, their excellence, and decision to take their inclusion and diversity efforts to a higher level,” Myers said in a statement. “I am so excited and look forward to collaborating all across Netflix to establish bold innovative frameworks and practices that will attract, fully develop, and sustain high performing diverse teams.”

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Myers is also the author of Moving Diversity Forward: How to Go From Well-Meaning to Well-Doing and What If I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People. She has been an active speaker at TED and has also contributed to numerous publications including Refinery29The AtlanticForbes and the Harvard Business Review.