The number of diverse new shows in the United States — those with at least 40% people of color — have surpassed non-diverse titles for the first time.
A report prepared by Creative Artists Agency with the research firm Parrot Analytics found that the number of new shows with diverse talent increased to 71 through the end of 2019, up 42% from 50 shows in 2017. During the same period, the supply of non-diverse shows rose 13% to 69.
But even with the gains, demand outstripped supply. Audience demand for shows with diverse casts rose 113% from 2017 to 2019. 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 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 in September, 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 U.S. audiences than the average TV title. The FX series “Pose,” which broke barriers for transgender actors, was 10 times more in demand than the average show, according to the report.
Latinos still struggle
Not all ethnicities shared in the growth. Latino casts were significantly underrepresented in TV show debuts, the study found. Latinos represent 18% of the country’s population but accounted for only 5% of roles in new TV shows during the 2017-2019 period. Conversely, the study determined that white actors were overrepresented, with 65% of the roles.
The results counter arguments 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.
The report’s release comes a month after CAA created a new group that focuses on the agency’s diverse clients.
CAA’s record of representing creators of color was called into question over the summer when one of TV’s hottest talents, the Black British actor and writer Michaela Coel, revealed she had fired the agency. Coel, the creator and star of the HBO series “I May Destroy You,” said 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.
The agency has vowed to focus more on diversity and inclusion. “This study solidifies what we’ve known for some time — diversity wins on screen,” Kevin Huvane, CAA co-chairman, said in a statement.