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Viewer demand for TV shows with diverse casts outstrips supply, research says

Audience demand, as defined by Parrot Analytics, is a measurement that factors in viewership via streaming and downloads, as well as audience activity on social media linked to the show and its research actions, such as reading or writing about shows.

In all, the study evaluated 380 scripted television debuts in the US between 2017 and 2019 across broadcast, cable and streaming services.

Among the popular new series with diverse casts was HBO’s Euphoria, the edgy coming-of-age drama that won three Emmy Awards last month, including one for its star Zendaya.

The study also cited the Hulu series grown-ish, a spinoff of ABC’s black-ish, which was six times more in demand among US audiences than the average TV title. The FX series Pose, which broke barriers for transgender actors and creators, was 10 times more in demand than the average US show according to the report.

Not all ethnicities shared in the growth. Latino casts were significantly under-represented in TV show debuts, the study found.

Latinos represent 18 per cent of the US population but accounted for only 5 per cent of roles in new TV shows during the 2017-2019 period. Conversely, the study determined that white actors were over-represented, with 65 per cent of the roles.

The results counter any belief among casting agents, producers or distributors that shows with diverse actors face a limited audience. They also further support action by some studios to diversify the casts and crews of their shows and films, after hits such as Walt Disney Co.’s Black Panther broke box office records.

“What I’m hoping we’re doing with this report is elevating another metric for success that gives people more power in conversations around how we make creative decisions around certain projects that we are exploring,” said Ruben Garcia, co-head of cultural business strategy at CAA.

Michaela Coel, creator and star of I May Destroy You, reportedly quit agency CAA when she was pressured into accepting a deal that left her with no stake in the show.

Michaela Coel, creator and star of I May Destroy You, reportedly quit agency CAA when she was pressured into accepting a deal that left her with no stake in the show.

The report’s release comes a month after CAA created a new group called Cultural Business Strategy led by executives Kevin Lin and Garcia that focuses on business growth for the agency’s diverse clients.

“This study solidifies what we’ve known for some time – diversity wins on-screen,” CAA co-chairman Kevin Huvane said in a statement.

Like other major talent agencies, CAA has not publicly disclosed diversity in its own ranks.

CAA’s record of representing creators of colour was called into question this summer when one of TV’s hottest talents, the Black British actor and writer Michaela Coel, revealed she had fired the agency, according to an interview with Vulture.

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Coel, the creator and star of the HBO series I May Destroy You, told the online magazine that she had discovered CAA had been pushing her to accept a deal with Netflix that secured profits for the agency if the show did well but left her without any stake in it. CAA declined to comment on the deal.

“Over the course of our work in diversity, equity and inclusion, we’ve made a ton of different investments and … have put in place a really strategic and thoughtful plan to try to accelerate diversity across the industry,” Garcia said.

Last year, CAA developed a six-month program for over three dozen diverse, mid-level writers who would be paired with a showrunner mentor for support and guidance to help navigate the industry.

Los Angeles Times

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