UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report Reveals TV Content From Diverse Writers & With Diverse Casts Resonated With Pandemic Audiences

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UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report for 2021 finds TV viewers embraced content from diverse writers rooms and featured diverse casts.

The report, which covers statistics for the 2019–20 TV season and was released Tuesday, tracks racial and gender diversity among key job categories, as well as ratings and social media engagement for 461 scripted shows across 50 broadcast, cable and streaming providers.

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“First Wives Club” - Credit: Karolina Wotjasik/BET
“First Wives Club” - Credit: Karolina Wotjasik/BET

Karolina Wotjasik/BET

For example, among households of all races in 2019–20, the scripted broadcast shows that earned the highest median ratings were those in which people of color were between 31 percent and 40 percent of the credited writers. Popular shows include Netflix’s Gentefied, BET+’s First Wives Club and HBO Max’s Doom Patrol.

“Our findings reveal that diverse audiences prefer shows that have diverse representation in their casts and among their credited writers,” Ana-Christina Ramón, co-author of the report and the director of research and civic engagement in the UCLA Division of Social Sciences, told Deadline.

“Audiences prefer content that has visual representation shown by those working in front of the camera,” she said. “But, they also prefer content that has meaningful representation created by those working behind the camera. Viewers want to see themselves on screen not just as a reflection based on how they look, but also how they live. Ignoring this connection leaves money on the table for studios and networks.”

For streaming programming, which is dominated by Netflix, ratings among white, Black, and Asian households were highest for shows with casts that were from 31 percent to 40 percent nonwhite.

And for the first time in the report’s history, people of color had a higher percentage of scripted broadcast TV acting roles, 43.4 percent, than their overall percentage of the U.S. population. Across all three platforms types, there were more people of color credited as writers than in the previous report.

Overall, people of color made up 26.4 percent of broadcast writers last season (up from 23.4 percent), 28.6 percent of cable writers (up from 25.8 percent), and 24.2 percent of streaming (up from 22.8 percent). Most of those modest gains were recorded by women, according to the study.

But people of color are still largely underrepresented among TV writers, given that 42.7 percent of Americans are nonwhite.

“Chicago Med” - Credit: NBC
“Chicago Med” - Credit: NBC

NBC

On the acting front, most of the gains for people of color can be attributed to increasing shares of Black and multiracial roles, while other minority groups remained underrepresented.

Roles for Black actors in total casts exceeded proportionate representation in all three platforms, reaching 18.4 percent in broadcast, 20.9 percent in cable, and 15.1 percent in digital. Multiracial actors also exceeded proportionate representation in total cast for broadcast (11.9 percent) and digital (11.3 percent). They made up 7.9 percent of cable casts.

Asian American, Latino and Native American actors were underrepresented in all acting categories.

Latino representation among directors and actors continues to lag as they hold far fewer TV jobs than their share of the U.S. population overall would predict. Latino actors held just 6.3 percent of broadcast TV roles, 5.7 percent in cable, and 5.5 percent in streaming. Meanwhile, Latino directors were responsible for only 5.4 percent of broadcast TV episodes, 3.5 percent of cable episodes, and 3.0 percent of streaming episodes.

“This UCLA report clearly demonstrates that more work is necessary to achieve more accurate representation and truly authentic portrayals in American television,” said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). ”I hope this report encourages entertainment executives to reevaluate their systems for recruiting, retaining, and promoting Latinx talent, work in earnest to make changes, and create a more inclusive culture.”

For the first time since the researchers began tracking data, a plurality of shows on cable (28.1 percent) and streaming platforms (26.8 percent) featured casts in which the majority of actors were nonwhite. And 32.1 percent of broadcast shows had a majority of nonwhite casts, up from just 2.0 percent in the first UCLA diversity report, which covered the 2011–12 season.

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