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.

Study: Movie Viewers Want to See Themselves Reflected Onscreen

Movie viewers want to see themselves reflected on the screen, according to a new study from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and data analytics firm Movio.

Moviegoers being able to identify with the characters in a movie drives their attendance behavior, the study found. When there are characters of a certain cohort (group), this is likely to drive more moviegoers of the same cohort. The analysis shows across all films that the leading characters and audience are generally 50-50 female/male. In 2007, only 23% of leads were female, and in 2017 30% were female. The more female characters, the more female the audience, and the more male characters, the more male the audience. The effect of genre on the percentage of leading characters male versus female was clear, according to the study authors, as well as the corresponding gender split in the attending audience. Action movies, most notably, regularly have well over 50% male characters and well over 50% (and frequently over 60%) male audience.

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The opportunity for Black, Asian and Latinx moviegoers to see themselves represented on screen is significantly lower than for white moviegoers. Several movies tally 100% of their characters as White with the majority having over 50% white characters. For the remaining four race/ethnicity groups, the majority of films are clustered at below 25% (if not 0%) representation on screen. This is significant considering people of color (Black, Asian and Latinx) comprise 37.8% of the U.S. population, the study noted. Across the board in terms of ethnicity, gender, and age, the negative portrayal of characters from a certain group has little bearing on whether or not that group attends a movie. However, particularly with regard to race and ethnicity, the analysis again shows how minority audiences are given substantially fewer opportunities to even see characters from their racial or ethnic group on the screen, no less characters from their racial or ethnic group who are also not depicted negatively.

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The research was also able to determine what demographic cohorts are being represented in films geared primarily towards children. Both male and female leads are roughly evenly split in terms of on-screen representation for films with more child visits, suggesting that young moviegoers are getting a fairly balanced representation of genders in their on-screen media consumption. However, when looking at race/ethnicity there is less of a balanced representation. White characters are very well represented in children’s films, with the majority of films having 50% or more White characters represented on screen. There is not the same level of representation for Asian or Latinx characters in children’s media as the vast majority of films moviegoers are bringing their children to see have no representation of these cohorts. For example, of all the titles analyzed, only six titles had over 18% Latinx characters, despite Latinx comprising 18.4% of the U.S. population.

Data scientists at both organizations examined the following questions for the “I Want to See Me: Why Diverse On-Screen Representation Drives Cinema Audiences” white paper:

  • Does the presence of certain groups (Race/Ethnicity, Gender, Age) on-screen draw larger numbers of the corresponding audience?
  • What negative or positive portrayals of certain groups are different viewers seeing in the most popular films?
  • What portrayals of certain groups are child viewers seeing in the most popular films?

 

On-screen data (the Institute) and audience demographic data (Movio) for the top 100 films (by box office) in the United States were examined for 2018 and 2019.

“As we’ve said before, our goal is very simple: that the characters on screen reflect the population, which is half Female and incredibly diverse,” Geena Davis, founder and chair of the institute, said in a statement. “We know that increasing the presence of underrepresented groups in media can have a very powerful impact on shifting cultural perceptions. Our industry has a tremendous opportunity to foster inclusion in society by taking action to diversify who shows up on screen. As this new research shows, we have made progress, but we need to do better.”

“As the movie industry begins to recover from the effects of the pandemic, this research carries even more weight,” William Palmer, chief executive and co-founder of Movio, said in a statement. “Diverse audiences can go elsewhere to find entertainment options that speak to them and their lives, so if cinema is to remain relevant and continue having a cultural impact, it must attract these audiences by delivering more representative content.”

“When we consider the impact that the media children are exposed to can have, including in the cinema, it is vital for them to see from the beginning that fictitious worlds reflect the real world, and that they see themselves reflected on screen,” Davis added. “When you see someone like yourself reflected, you take in the message: ‘There’s someone like me, I must belong.’ It’s encouraging to see the progress we’ve made with gender representation, but we must show more diversity on screen, if we don’t show more diversity, we are contributing to the serious problem of racial inequity in our society today.”