A UCLA study found that TV viewers in the U.S. prefer shows that reflect racial and ethnic diversity, Newsweek reported.
Darnell Hunt, dean of the school's social sciences division noted that the biggest takeaway from the report is "the mounting evidence for how important diversity is to today's audience."
"People basically want to see the TV shows that look like America, that have characters they can relate to and have experiences that resonate with them," Hunt said.
The study examined a total of 461 scripted shows across all platforms to determine the employment gains made by women and people of color as actors, writers, directors, and series creators.
According to the report's findings, viewership trended upward across broadcast and streaming platforms when a show had a diverse cast.
The audience's enthusiasm for persons-of-color (POC) representation is a direct reflection of how the U.S. population is becoming more diverse.
Before UCLA conducted its first diversity record back in 2010, a U.S. Census said 63.7 percent of the population were white. 10 years later, the 2020 Census figure reported that 58 percent of Americans are white, the lowest percentage ever recorded.
As study co-author Ana-Christina Ramón views it, the issue rests on the shoulders of the industry’s studio executives—mostly white males—who often characterize ethnicities as “very niche,” Deadline reported.
“I think they often think of stories from Latinx creators and Asian American creators as something really quite peripheral…. and not appealing to the quote-unquote mainstream,” Ramón reasoned.
“Audiences prefer content that has visual representation shown by those working in front of the camera,” she went on. “But, they also prefer content that has meaningful representation created by those working behind the camera. Viewers want to see themselves on screen not just as a reflection based on how they look, but also how they live. Ignoring this connection leaves money on the table for studios and networks.”
Hunt also claims that “unimaginative” executive-suite decisions reduce diversity to a choice between Black or white hires, which doesn’t explore the other ethnic groups.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, men of color increased among broadcast credited writers but “treaded water in cable and digital.”