TV is leading the way on diversity in Hollywood, but that’s not saying much

Waiting for the future.
Waiting for the future.
Image: Netflix
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Hollywood is still failing miserably on nearly every indicator for diversity. There is some hope, however, in US television.

The share of scripted broadcast shows with casts that were 10% minority or less has decreased significantly, according to a UCLA report (pdf). In 2012, 30% of all shows had casts that were 10% minority or less—that figure dropped to 16% in 2016, the last year studied. The percentage of casts that were majority minority jumped from 2% in 2011 to 18% in 2016.

There was also significant improvement in the diversity of scripted shows on cable. In 2011, the share with majority-minority casts increased from 8.4% to 14.8%. It wasn’t, however, all good news. The share of casts that were 10% minority or less pretty much stayed the same for digital scripted shows (from 45.5% in 2012 to 42.2 in 2016).

The report also looked at the proportion of people of color with leading roles in TV. In broadcast scripted shows, people of color quadrupled their share of leads, from 5.1% during the 2011-12 season to 18.7% in 2015-16. There was also a big jump in cable and digital; people of color accounted for 20% of cable scripted leads in 2015-16 (up from 14.7), while they made up 12.9% of leads in digital scripted shows (up from 9.1).

There was less progress in the film industry. People of color accounted for 13.9% of the leads in top- grossing films for 2016, a figure virtually unchanged from the year earlier. The report notes that people of color would need to triple their 2016 share to reach proportionate representation.

The study also broke down the share of acting roles by race in TV. White actors had 76% of roles in broadcasted scripted shows during the 2014-15 season. Though that figure dropped to 66% in 2015-16, it was still above the proportionate representation for whites in the US, where they are 61.3% of the overall population). Black actors had 17% of all roles. As black people make up 13.3 of the US population, the report authors note “Blacks were overrepresented among actors in broadcast scripted shows.” Other minority groups, such as Latino and Asian, were underrepresented.

White actors share of scripted roles on cable decreased from 79% to 74.6% during the same time period. Black actors had proportionate representation while all other minority groups were underrepresented. There wasn’t much progress for digital scripted shows—white actors’ share of roles remained unchanged, while all other racial groups were underrepresented. That said, the number of creators that were people of color in digital scripted shows more than doubled, from 6.2% in 2013 to 15.7% in 2016.