OTT.X Promoting Diversity, Equality and Inclusion With Upcoming Webinars, Other Initiatives

The nonprofit industry association OTT.X has created a Call for Change group and has slated two webinars in September as part of an ongoing initiative to promote diversity, equality and inclusion in the OTT industry.

The upcoming webinars are “Inherent Bias in AI/Machine Learning,” presented by Slalom, and “A Look at How Representation Drives Viewership,” presented by Samba.

On Feb. 18, OTT.X hosted an online dialogue about social justice, racism exclusion and allyship within the industry. The objectives of the initial session were to identify the changes the industry can make today and those it can work toward impacting in the future. Participants defined these issues and opportunities:

a) The industry and the consumer will benefit from more diverse participation. Minority-owned businesses, and socially messaged content, can benefit from financing opportunities and distribution exposure.

b) Management ranks and senior leadership positions in the industry seem to be under-representative of the diversity of the population.

c) The industry has a unique opportunity to communicate to, and impact, the general public by the nature of its business.

“OTT.X recognizes that it can effectively do its part and impact and affect change within the OTT community of companies and individuals, such as within our industry’s workforce,” said OTT.X president and CEO Mark Fisher. “We can help by supporting the growth of minority-owned businesses and by holding our community accountable for its commitments regarding diversity, equality and inclusion.”

Industry executives across small and large companies and of diverse ethnicities are currently participating in OTT.X Call for Change.

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In November 2020, OTT.X conducted its first special webinar on inclusion, “A Path Toward Inclusion in the Workplace.”

In March, OTT.X invited its members to an online table reading of Polar Bears, Black Boys and Prairie Fringed Orchids, a play about environmental justice and police violence written by former OTT.X team member Vincent Durham, followed by a Zoom discussion among viewers with Durham.

OTT.X is also coordinating the development of a database of potential conference speakers and panelists from under-represented groups in the OTT ecosystem. OTT.X will utilize this list to ensure that it sets the example of diversity and inclusion with the speaker rosters at its own conferences and events, and will also make this list available to other organizations and conference operators.

Future projects being discussed include assisting minority companies in finding funding, connecting content creators with interested parties to create socially relevant content, working alongside a research partner to create an industry accountability report (examining follow-through related to commitments companies made after the George Floyd murder), and providing public service spots to run on AVOD channels in unsold slots.

Participation in the OTT.X Call for Change is not limited to OTT.X members.  All members of the OTT community are invited to engage. To learn more or get involved, email Fisher at mfisher@ottx.org.

Amazon Studios Releases Inclusion Policy and Playbook for Original Content Production

Amazon Studios June 16 released a comprehensive inclusion policy that it says extends its commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity for its content and productions, as well as guidelines for its collaborators in the creative community.

The recommendations come as Amazon Studios says it continues to seek out stories and storytelling that amplify voices across race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability (including mental health), body size, gender, gender identity, and gender expression for the global Prime Video audience.

“We wanted to move beyond good intentions to creating mechanisms that hold us accountable to a high bar,” Latasha Gillespie, executive head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “This playbook adds additional depth and guidance for our internal teams and external partners to ensure we continue to advance our shared mission of amplifying the best creatives and content around the world.”

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The studio in 2017 got caught up in the #MeToo movement when its boss, Ray Price, was forced to resign following allegations of inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Price was replaced by Jennifer Salke.

Salke says the studio’s new playbook on diversity and inclusion underscores its commitment to being a “thought and action” leader in the transformation of Hollywood.

“We know how much work there is to be done to improve representation both on camera and behind the scenes, and it starts at home, with us,” Salke said. “With clear directives and a commitment to accountability, these guides provide a path toward a more equitable future, both on- and off-camera.”

Specifically, the playbook outlines production goals for each film or series with a creative team of three or more people in above-the-line roles (directors, writers, producers) should ideally include a minimum 30% women and 30% members of an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. This aspirational goal will increase to 50% by 2024.

Casting actors whose identity (gender, gender identity, nationality, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability) aligns with the character they will be playing.

Aiming to include one character from each of the following categories in speaking roles, with minimum 50% of these to be women: LGBTQIA+, person with a disability, and three regionally underrepresented race/ethnic/cultural groups. A single character can fulfill one or more of these identities.

Seeking at least three bids from vendors or suppliers on productions, one of which must be from a woman-owned business and one from a minority-owned business.

Pay equity across casting, behind the camera staff and crew, and for vendors and suppliers.

Amazon Studios said it shared the playbook with creators, including Gloria Calderón Kellett, creator and executive producer of the upcoming Amazon Original series “With Love.”

“Inclusive hiring is what makes change,” said Kellett. “Opportunity and an eye towards changing things through action is what makes change. Thrilled that Amazon has put together this playbook to start important conversations with their other creatives.”

The studio said it would provide a report template for each production to indicate whether these expectations were met, that would be submitted within one month of the completion of principal photography. This reporting exceeds the minimum standards set by the Academy of Motion Pictures, but ensures Amazon is poised to report on the diversity of their films for Academy Award contention.

The playbook puts in place intentional practices to minimize and disrupt biases, providing specific guidance that will help everyone within and working with Amazon Studios to meet expectations.

It also provides direction on how to make inclusive decisions, while telling authentic stories and hiring the best people for the job; knowledge of where to go for help, including tools to make inclusive decisions; tools to identify criteria for making creative choices, leading to balanced, consistent and informed decisions; and ways to foster curiosity and ask questions to disrupt the status quo about “how things are done.”

Amazon Studios worked with Dr. Stacy Smith and Dr. Katherine Pieper of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and with Brenda Robinson of the International Documentary Association and Gamechanger Films on the creation of the playbook. The studio also consulted with organizations devoted to advancing the visibility and responsible depictions of underrepresented or marginalized people, including GLAAD, Illuminative, Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity, and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

Smith says current outcomes of DEI work within the entertainment industry have been disingenuous, underscoring the systemic barriers to entry that have long plagued Hollywood.

“But now, Amazon Studios has created a comprehensive new blueprint that will change Hollywood by elevating those who have historically lacked access,” she said. “I’m immensely proud of this new policy and I know it will be a gamechanger throughout an industry often resistant to real change.”

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.”

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.”