Diverse Casts Deliver Higher Ratings, Bigger Box Office: Study

Austin Siegemund-Broka, Hollywood Reporter, February 25, 2015

Hollywood’s racial and gender diversity is increasing. But it’s not increasing quickly enough, says Darnell Hunt, lead author of the second annual Hollywood Diversity Report by UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, set for release Feb. 25. “Hollywood is not progressing at the same rate as America is diversifying,” says Hunt, the center’s director and a sociology professor. The U.S. population is about 40 percent minority and slightly more than half female, but, in news to no one, women and minorities are represented onscreen and behind the camera in drastically lesser proportions, the study indicates.

The problem isn’t audiences: During the years the study surveys–2012 and 2013–viewers preferred films and television shows with moderately diverse casts, according to Nielsen ratings and box-office reports. “Audiences, regardless of their race, are clamoring for more diverse content,” says co-author Ana-Christina Ramon.

The study blames the lack of diversity on agencies, guilds, studios and networks–“an industry culture that routinely devalues the talent of minorities and women,” reads the report.

The authors recognize the report’s time window limits its relevance, especially as racial diversity has shown big gains on TV during the 2014-15 season, but they predict their findings will encourage more progress. The study surveyed the top 200 films by global box office in 2012 and 2013, excluding foreign movies, and every broadcast, cable and digital TV series of the 2012-13 season (1,105 total).


In movies, minorities were underrepresented more than 2-to-1 (less than half as much as their share of the U.S. population) in lead roles and 2-to-1 as directors, and women lagged 2-to-1 as leads and 8-to-1 as directors (female-helmed films included 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty and The Guilt Trip and 2013’s Frozen and Carrie). Meanwhile, films with casts about 30 percent diverse did best at the worldwide box office.



Viewers like diversity, with broadcast scripted shows 41 percent to 50 percent diversely cast scoring the highest ratings in black and white households alike in 2012-13, while on cable, white and Latino viewers preferred casts with 31 percent to 40 percent diversity. Black households preferred cable shows with more than 50 percent diversity, a figure buoyed by BET programs including The Game and Kevin Hart’s Real Husbands of Hollywood.

But TV remained white-heavy onscreen and behind the camera, with minorities underrepresented nearly 6-to-1 in lead roles on scripted broadcast shows and nearly 2-to-1 as leads on cable (relative to their share of the U.S. population), more than 3-to-1 as cable series creators and more than 6-to-1 as broadcast creators. {snip}



This year, for the first time, the study surveyed diversity in 2013 in the executive ranks of TV networks and studios (96 percent white and 71 percent male) and major and mini-major film studios (94 percent white and 100 percent male). {snip}

The report was backed financially by a half-dozen major studios and networks including the Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner. {snip}


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