More top TV shows featured racially and ethnically diverse casts during the 2021-22 season as overall cast diversity reflected the population across broadcast, cable and streaming, according to a UCLA report released Thursday.
At the same time, the 10th annual UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report on TV found incremental progress as people of color remained underrepresented as leads in broadcast and digital, and actors with a disability were clearly underrepresented among leads across all three platforms.
“We have closely examined the people and stories the industry chooses to invest in,” said Ana-Christina Ramón, director of UCLA’s Entertainment and Media Research Initiative, which produces the report. “Over the last decade, we’ve developed and refined this annual breakdown of cast, director, show creator, writer and audience. The data is clear: More work needs to be done.”
For the latest television report, researchers reviewed data for 521 live-action, scripted shows — 99 broadcast, 112 cable and 310 digital — that aired in the 2021-22 season. They examined race/ethnicity and gender for key job categories, plus disability status for actors, to see who is actually being hired.
This year, researchers broadened their scope into other areas, offering a look at the disability status of almost 3,500 actors — regardless of the character they play on screen — and expanding cast analysis for the top shows to include gender and disability.
“We listened to what people wanted to know,” said Michael Tran, co-author of the report and a graduate student in sociology. “Now that more reliable data is available, we’re able to bring more visibility to communities, like those with disabilities, to the forefront so that more people from underrepresented backgrounds can be given opportunities, and to benefit the entire industry.”
Although actors with disabilities were rarely featured on the small screen, cast members with known disabilities were found more often in digital, with highly rated shows like “Stranger Things” on Netflix and Marvel’s “Hawkeye” on Disney+ falling within the 41% to 50% disability cast share interval, according to the report.
Although less than 1% of shows on each platform had visible or physical disabilities, the success of these particular shows suggests viewers are not turned off by content that features actors with disabilities, UCLA determined.
The report’s authors also found casts reached more representative levels of race and ethnicity across all platforms. More shows featured diverse casts, with the plurality of all offerings presenting a cast that was majority-minority: 36.0% of broadcast, 35.8% of cable and 36.5% of digital.
With new shows making up more than half of the shows during the 2021-22 television season, which was filmed almost entirely under pandemic protocols, diversity in creators’ race, ethnicity and gender increased for broadcast and cable, while digital remained steady despite a higher number of digital shows. The share of creators of color for new shows rose to 26.7%, and share of people of color and women credited in the writers’ room also increased, according to the report.
Other findings from the report:
- women were well represented in lead acting roles on scripted shows on broadcast at 52.6%, marking the first time they’ve reached parity since the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons;
- actors of color reached their highest share of lead roles in broadcast, 32.6%, since the start of the report series but were still underrepresented. They also reached parity at 43.2% in cable series relative to the U.S. population but their share in digital decreased to 35.9%;
- women of color made significant gains as writers for broadcast shows at 21.6% in 2020-21, up from 17.8% in 2020-21; cable shows at 23.4% from 20.9%; and digital at 22.1% from 18.9%; and
- as with other categories, transgender and nonbinary actors had nominal representation across all shows tracked.