Sofía Vergara transformed herself for the role of Griselda Blanco
Latin Times/Netflix

MIAMI - While the conversation around diversity and representation in media has intensified greatly in recent years, driven by the increasing diversity of the United States population, there has been a decrease in the overall hiring of minority actors in television. And Latinos have been hit the worst by this new trend.

That is the conclusion of a new report by Samba TV, which shows how the representation of non-white leads on television has declined in the first half of 2024. According to the report, the percentage of non-white top-billed actors in the top 50 TV shows fell by 12% compared to 2022. This drop in diversity is alarming, particularly given the rising demand for inclusive content.

A Breakdown of Representation

Samba TV's report provides a detailed analysis of representation across the top 25 shows from linear and streaming platforms released between January and May 2024. The findings reveal that only 39% of the top-billed actors in these shows were non-white, a significant decrease from previous years.

Hispanic actors were particularly underrepresented, making up just 6% of top-billed actors — a staggering 40% decrease from the previous year. This decline highlights a significant gap in representation for Latino communities, who remain one of the fastest-growing demographics in the United States.

The underrepresentation of diverse groups on television is not only a social issue but also a missed opportunity for the entertainment industry. Numerous studies have shown that diverse casting attracts a broader audience. Samba TV's findings support this, showing a positive correlation of 39% among non-white households watching shows with higher percentages of non-white stars. Black households showed the strongest correlation, at 46%, indicating a clear preference for shows where viewers see themselves represented.

The importance of representation on screen is well-documented. A study by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that films and TV shows with diverse casts tend to perform better financially and receive higher ratings from audiences. This is because diverse content resonates with a wider range of viewers, reflecting the reality of an increasingly multicultural society.

Top Performers and Representation Gaps

Despite the overall decline, some shows have excelled in diverse casting. Samba TV highlights Netflix's "Griselda" and Disney's "Echo", both featuring non-white leads, as top performers. On network TV, CBS's "The Equalizer" and ABC's "Will Trent" also performed well among different ethnic groups, serving as examples of how inclusive casting can attract diverse audiences and achieve commercial success.

However, the report also points out significant representation gaps, particularly for Hispanic actors. Just 3% of the leads in top linear shows were Hispanic, a concerningly low figure given the demographic's substantial presence in the United States.

Platform-Specific Insights

The Samba TV report shows how different platforms are faring in terms of diversity. Black representation appears stronger on network TV, while Asian representation shines on streaming services, thanks to shows like FX on Hulu's "Shōgun" and Max's *The Sympathizer*.

However, streaming platforms also showed a strong representation of Black leads, with Prime Video emerging as a top platform among Black audiences. Shows like "The Underdoggs", "Mr. & Mrs. Smith", and "Role Play" were particularly popular, demonstrating the appeal of diverse content on streaming platforms.

Industry initiatives and advocacy groups play a crucial role in promoting diversity. Organizations like the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media provide valuable research and resources to help the industry make more inclusive decisions. These efforts, combined with audience demand for diverse content, can drive meaningful change in representation on television.

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