Screen Time: Netflix Increases Content Diversity Up 45%

By Sabrina Lynch

  • 47.5% of leads and co-leads in Netflix’ U.S. movies were people of color in 2021
  • Diversity and Inclusion in the entertainment industry could unlock $10B in untapped revenue

Bridgerton, Never have I Ever,  Extraction, Love is Blind represent some streaming shows and movies with diverse casts on Netflix (NFLX +0.11%) as it continues to grow its culturally attuned content. New data from the company and USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reveals that 47.5% of leads and co-leads in Netflix’ U.S. movies were people of color in 2021, up from 46.7% in 2020 and 28.4% in 2018. However, boundaries for diversity need to expand from being in front of the camera, to cast and crew, who work behind-the-lens.

Why This Matters: Let’s not forget that Netflix previously pledged $100 million to improve diversity on screen. Streaming giants, such as Amazon (AMZN +1.85%) Studios and Netflix, have recently made numerous layoffs, cut budgets and canceled initiatives to increase their profits. This creates a big problem for visibility of underrepresented communities since directors of color tend to be given much smaller budgets to play with than their white counterparts.  Currently the film and TV industry loses $10 billion, or 7% every year by undervaluing Black films, filmmakers and executives.

To go against the grain, Netflix is putting Women of Color in leadership positions behind the camera, leading to 11.8% of ‘Tudum” series being directed by ethnically-diverse females. There’s still lots more work to be done. Specifically, latinos made up only 6.8% of leads and co-leads in Netflix movies between 2018 and 2021, while Asian Americans made up 9.2% of film leads and co-leads. Don’t let the hype of Beef fool you. It’s a start but not the end of the diversity battle.

What’s Next: There are plenty of barriers already in existence that undermine equity for People of Color working in the entertainment industry. Further budget cuts could put the progress promised by Hulu, Netflix and Disney (DIS +1.97%) at risk. More investment needs to be diverted to training programs to increase the talent pool, such as Shondaland’s The Producers Inclusion Initiative and Disney’s Future Storytellers Initiative. 

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