Netflix content is more inclusive than theatrical films, study finds
A study found the streamer was outperforming traditional studios in onscreen and behind-the-scenes diversity, though there is still progress to be made.
Netflix is outperforming traditional studios in terms of inclusivity, according to a new study commissioned by the streamer, though there is still significant progress to be made on several fronts. A report by the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, released Friday, showed increases in representation for women, Black cast and crew, and women of color in Netflix movies and series over a two-year period.
"Over the years, we've seen that to drive real change, we need to approach our work with an 'inclusion lens,'" Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said in a statement announcing the study's release. "That means asking more questions like: 'whose voice is missing? Is this portrayal authentic? Who is excluded?' This lens directly impacts who is being hired both above and below the line as well as the stories we make for our members."
The study examined 126 movies and 180 series released during 2018 and 2019, and found that 35.7 percent of these films featured leads from underrepresented groups, compared to 28 percent of top-grossing theatrical films during this time. Fifty-two percent of the streamer's movies and series featured girls or women in leading roles, and the percentage of female directors, writers, and producers on Netflix projects also outpaced the industry at large. Meanwhile, 15.2 percent of lead characters and 19.5 percent of the main cast of all Netflix content during these two years were Black.
However, racial and ethnic inclusion varied, and not all groups were represented proportionally. Notably, 68.3 percent of the projects assessed did not feature a single speaking role for a Latina, and 96 percent did not include any women identified as American Indian/Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. Only one director of a Netflix film and only 1.7 percent of series leads in these two years were Latinx.
Representation also fell short for LGBTQ characters and characters with disabilities, with only 2 percent of speaking characters in films and 3.3 percent in series identified as LGBTQ. Less than 1 percent of series leads had a disability.
Sarandos said inclusivity reports for the streamer would be released every two years through 2026. "Our hope is to create a benchmark for ourselves, and more broadly across the industry," he added.