Despite the on-screen gender and minority diversity found in streaming media shows and movies, including those made by Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, there is a lack of diversity behind the scenes, according to a new study by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.
The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity (CARD) study looked at the inclusion rates of minority and genders in 109 first-run fictional films and 305 TV shows and digital series that were aired between September 1, 2014 and August 31, 2015 by 10 major media companies: 21st Century Fox, CBS, Comcast NBC Universal, Sony, the Walt Disney Company, Time Warner, Viacom, Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix.
The report found that while gender and minority diversity is "partially" to "fully" inclusive on-screen on streaming media platforms, behind-the-scenes diversity is lacking. The CARD study defined "partially inclusive" as having on-screen or behind-the-scenes gender and minority representation within 30% of the U.S. census statistics for that metric. "Largely inclusive" means gender and minority representation is within 20% of the U.S. census statistics for that metric and "fully inclusive" means gender and minority representation is within 10% of the U.S. census statistics for that metric.
Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix scored high marks for gender and minority representation on-screen thanks to shows like Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black and Amazon Prime’s Transparent, but the streaming media companies usually fared worse than their old media counterparts when it comes to gender and minority representation behind the camera.
The CARD study found that only 20% of top executives were female at Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix compared with 22% in television and 26% in film. When it came to non-white directors, streaming media took third place in diversity, with 11% of directors identifying as non-white. Cable television had the best showing with almost 17% of directors identifying as non-white, while film came in second place at almost 13% of directors identifying as non-white. The only industry that came in behind streaming media was broadcast television with 9.6% of directors identifying as non-white.
When it comes to female show creators, streaming media actually led the pack at 25% of shows created by a female. Broadcast and cable television each came in at 22%. However, when looking at female writers and directors streaming media again came in third place at 25% and 12% respectively. Broadcast television was first at 32% female writers and 17% female directors; cable TV was second at 29% and 15%, respectively. Film, however, was dead last by a long shot, with only 11% of writers and 3% of directors being female.
In the end, the study’s authors concluded that while streaming media clearly has some catching up to do behind the scenes, it’s not just that platform that has diversity issues. "Hollywood has a diversity problem," the study’s authors wrote.
"The film industry still functions as a straight, white, boy’s club," they say. "Girls and women are less than one-third of all speaking characters, and comprise a small percentage of directors and writers of the major studio and art house releases of 2014. Television/digital series are more balanced. Girls and women comprise 37.1% of characters and 42% of series regulars. Females also work more frequently behind the camera as directors and writers. Few women fill top leadership roles in media companies, though they are more prevalent in EVP and SVP positions. Thus, as power increases, female presence decreases."
The study’s suggestions for solutions to change the current makeup include build inclusive consideration lists for writers and directors by "ensuring they contain 50% women and 38% people of color" and attempt to "recognize and alter stereotypical thinking and imagine counter-stereotypical examples before making a hiring decision or finalizing a script."