Women and BIPOC Continue to Trail in TV Representation, According to Nielsen Study

Will Thorne
·2-min read

A Nielsen study on TV representation has found that women and BIPOC continue to be underrepresented.

The rating service has published the findings of “Being Seen on Screen: Diverse Representation and Inclusion on TV,” stating that cable in particular is lagging behind in on-screen representation.

Using measurements like its Share of Screen (which looks at the composition of the top 10 recurring cast members on any given show) across scripted, reality, variety and news programming, Nielsen found that whites, African Americans and LGBTQ+ had the largest overall share of the screen, while women, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans were underrepresented when compared to the overall population.

For instance, women account for 52% of the total U.S. population, yet only had 38% of the screen time on the 300 biggest shows on broadcast, streaming cable last year. While people of color represent just under 40% of the population, but had only 27% of screen time.

Shockingly, almost a third of cable content was found to not have parity representation of BIPOC, women or LGBTQ+ talent. SVOD services fared better in this regard, which Nielsen points to as a reason behind a more diverse audience moving over to streaming.

Looking at representation by genre, the study concluded that women are not well represented in any single genre, but were particularly lacking in the news department. People of color likewise lacked representation in news in particular, and were closer to parity in music and drama.

“This work underscores the essential importance of on-screen representation in an increasingly diverse audience landscape,” said Sandra Sims-Williams, Nielsen SVP of diversity, equity and inclusion. “Not only is the business case for inclusion made but it also provides practical recommendations on how media companies can address inclusion gaps. This is a must-read for any media professional who wants to be part of the change that today’s television viewers demand.”

“At Nielsen, we believe that the audience is everything and that inclusion is a prerequisite of a healthy media ecosystem, ensuring all communities and individuals are heard and seen,” addded Tina Wilson, Nielsen EVP of media analytics and marketing outcomes. “The call for inclusive programming that breaks traditional stereotypes and gives a voice to underrepresented groups has never been louder.”

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