Streaming TV Series Ahead Of Broadcast In Featuring Women In Front Of And Behind Camera, Latest Boxed In Study Finds

A new report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University has found that women made up 50% of major characters on streaming programs and 48% on broadcast TV during 2021-2022, the fourth year in a row that streaming companies have outpaced their broadcast network counterparts in that metric.

“Half of the major characters on streaming programs are girls and women, approximating their numbers in the actual population,” said Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center.

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Streaming also topped broadcast percentage-wise in key behind-the-scenes jobs, according to the report, titled Boxed In: Women on Screen and Behind the Scenes on Broadcast and Streaming Television in 2021-22 and released Tuesday.

The study (read it here), in its 25th year, found that 37% of individuals working in key behind-the-scenes roles on streaming programs were women, a gain of four percentage points to a new high, compared with 31% on broadcast. Those differences grew among certain positions, including executive producers (38%-29%) and directors (29%-18%).

Still, in 2021-22, 92% of broadcast and streaming programs had no women directors of photography, 79% had no women had no women directors, 72% had no women editors, 71% had no women creators, and 65% had no women writers, the study said.

Broadcast did outpace streaming series in some key diversity categories including featuring higher percentages of Black female (28%-21%) and Latina (7%-3%) characters in major roles; for Latina characters, both broadcast and streaming numbers ticked down year over year. The streaming side did feature a higher percentage of Asian and Asian American female characters (15%-10%) in 2021-22.

Another notable trend, per the report: On broadcast programs, the percentage of major female characters plummeted from 42% in their 30s to 15% in their 40s. On streaming programs, that percentage dropped from 33% in their 30s to 14% in their 40s. Female characters in their 60s comprised just 3% on each platform.

The study, which has tracked more than 53,000 characters over its 25 years, considered one randomly selected episode of original U.S. dramas, comedies and reality programs appearing on the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox NBC and the CW) during primetime and streamers (Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, Paramount+ and Peacock) from September 2021-May 2022.

It meant this year’s edition encompassed more than 3,000 characters and more than 3,800 credits.

The sampling for 2021-22 did not include any non-binary or transgender onscreen characters on broadcast networks, while on streaming services non-binary characters repped just 0.4% and transgender characters 0.2% of all speaking characters.

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