Streamers have more female characters than broadcast television, study finds

By | October 18, 2022

A survey of the 2020-21 TV season found that broadcast companies put more women on creative staff than broadcast networks, even though broadcasters featured slightly more women as main characters in their shows. But a year later, that study found that streamers now beat networks on both sides by small margins.

The “Boxed In” study has been led for 25 years by Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. Lauzen runs the annual studies “Celluloid Ceiling” and “Thumbs Down: Gender and Film Critics and Why It Matters.” Boxed In” on broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW) during prime time and streaming services (Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock). In the year In 2021-22, the study tracked more than 3,000 characters and more than 3,800 production credits, adding to a total of more than 53,000 characters and 66,000 credits since the study began in the 1997-98 TV season.

This year’s survey found that 50% of main characters on streaming are women, compared to 48% on networks. When analyzed for all speaking roles, streamers had 47% female representation, while broadcasters had 45%.

When analyzed for both gender and race, streamers and broadcasters had different distribution rates. 28% of streamers feature black women as protagonists, and 7% feature Latinas as protagonists, compared to 21% and 3%, respectively, while streamers feature Asian women in 15% of streams and 10% as protagonists.

Age is another disparity in women’s representation. “When women in the real world reach their 40s, they’re gaining personal and professional empowerment, but at this age, the number of women in television and film is declining,” Lauzen said. “Most media images normalize ambiguous ideas about gender and age, valuing women for their youth and beauty and men for their success.”

According to Boxed In, in streaming, 42% of main female characters are in their 30s, while only 15% are in their 40s. Broadcasters followed suit, with 33% in the 30s and 14% in the 40s.

Behind the scenes, broadcast programs employ a higher percentage of women than broadcast network programs. The report found that women make up 37 percent of key behind-the-scenes roles on streaming shows, compared to 31 percent of broadcast network shows. This includes creators, directors, writers, executives, producers, editors and cinematographers.

In particular, women hold 38% of executive producers on broadcast programs and 29% on broadcast programs. Women comprise 29% of directors working on broadcast programs but 18% on broadcast programs.

Boxed In summarizes content analysis findings about characters and behind-the-scenes credits on dramas, comedies, and reality television shows. In the year In 2021-22, the study tracked more than 3,000 characters and more than 3,800 behind-the-scenes credits. Over the past 25 years – from 1997-98 to 2021-22 – the study has tracked more than 53,000 characters and more than 66,000 behind-the-scenes credits. The study provides an extensive historical record of the representation and employment of women in television.

When it comes to creative control, streamers were found to employ women in 37% of key roles (creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers) compared to 31% of broadcast networks. When analyzing each individual position, streamers had better gender parity for creators, directors, executive producers, and producers, while broadcasters hired more women as writers, editors, and cinematographers: among streamers, women made up 30% of creators, 29% of directors, and 30% of writers. , 38% executive producers, 47% producers, 22% editors and 11% cinematographers. In networks, women make up 29% of creators, 18% of directors, 36% of writers, 29% of executive producers, 42% of producers, 23% of editors and 16% of cinematographers.

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