GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, announced the findings of its annual Where We Are on TV report. Where We Are on TV analyzes the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks and assesses the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and original scripted streaming series on the services Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix for the 2018-2019 TV season. This marks the 23rd year that GLAAD has tracked the presence of LGBTQ characters on television.
The 2018 Where We Are on TV report found a record-high percentage of LGBTQ series regulars on broadcast television at 8.8% of all series regulars. This is up from last year’s 6.4% (another record-high), and the highest GLAAD has found since the organization expanded to count all broadcast series regulars 14 years ago. The report also found that LGBTQ characters on broadcast television are at gender parity with equal percentages of men and women (49.6%), improving upon the previous year’s numbers for LGBTQ characters, which was 55% men and 44% women. For the first time, there are more LGBTQ people of color (50%) than white LGBTQ people (49%) on broadcast television.
Additional representation that is up this year across all platforms tracked (broadcast, cable, streaming) includes: the total number of bisexual+ people is up to 117 from 93; transgender people is up to 26 from 17; and characters who are HIV-positive are up to seven from two.
“With anti-LGBTQ policies being debated here and abroad, the stories and characters on television are more critical than ever before to build understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO. “Not only do stories that explore the rich lives and identities of LGBTQ people move the needle forward culturally, but they pay off in ratings – shows like Will & Grace, Supergirl, Empire, and How To Get Away with Murder all attract millions of viewers weekly and demonstrate that audiences are hungry for new stories and perspectives.”
GLAAD discussed the findings and highlight a path forward for content creators at an event hosted by United Talent Agency (UTA). The event featured a panel discussion around LGBTQ images on television featuring writer, director and producer Greg Berlanti, UTA TV agent Lucinda Moorhead, Steven Canals (Co-Creator, FX’s Pose), Lyrica Okano (Hulu’s Runaways), and remarks from GLAAD Director of Entertainment Research & Analysis Megan Townsend.
“An increased focus on the importance of LGBTQ representation in television, and across all content, must be a priority for our entire industry,” said UTA TV agent Lucinda Moorhead. “The content we help shape should reflect the diverse and evolving world we live in, and as creators and those who represent them, we have a special obligation to champion that mission.”
During the event, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis affirmed the importance of LGBTQ images on television in today’s cultural climate and challenge the industry to reach 10 percent LGBTQ inclusion among broadcast series regular characters on primetime scripted series by 2020.
“This year’s Where We Are on TV report has shown important progress towards a media landscape that is LGBTQ-inclusive and portrays the community in a fair and accurate way,” said Megan Townsend, Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis at GLAAD. “This year we noted two history-making television moments: the premiere of FX’s Pose, which features the largest number of transgender series regular characters on a scripted U.S. series ever, and this fall The CW’s Supergirl introduced audiences to TV’s first transgender superhero when Nicole Maines made her debut as Dreamer/Nia Nal. This is all part of a welcome increase in television telling groundbreaking stories featuring characters whose identities have long been left off screen.”
Additional findings include:
- The report found record-high percentage of Black (up to 22% from 18%), Latinx (held steady at 8%, tying last year’s record), and API series regular characters (up to 8% from 7%) across broadcast television.
- Of the 857 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming this season, 75 were identified as LGBTQ. There were an additional 38 recurring LGBTQ characters.
- Netflix counted the highest number of LGBTQ characters across streaming services and FX counted the highest number of LGBTQ characters across cable networks.
- The number of regular LGBTQ characters counted on scripted primetime cable increased to 120 and recurring characters increased to 88, for a total of 208 LGBTQ characters on cable. This is up from 173 in the previous report.
- There were 75 LGBTQ regular characters counted on original scripted series on the streaming services Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix as well as 37 recurring characters. These 112 LGBTQ characters represent a significant increase from the 65 LGBTQ characters counted on streaming last year.
- For the 2018-2019 season, there will also be a record-high number of series regulars who are people with disabilities – up to 2.1% from 1.8% the previous year. This is a total of 18 characters.
- More LGBTQ characters are in leading roles than ever before with shows like The Red Line, Charmed, Vida, Tales of the City, and more putting LGBTQ characters front and center.
- All platforms tracked – broadcast, cable, and streaming – posted significant improvement in racial diversity of LGBTQ regular and recurring characters after the previous report specifically called for change here. Fifty percent of LGBTQ characters on broadcast are people of color, with streaming following (48 percent of LGBTQ characters) and cable rounding out at 46 percent of LGBTQ characters counted as people of color.
- Only 43 percent of the regular characters counted on broadcast primetime television are women, the same percentage as last year, and a severe underrepresentation of the U.S. population, which is estimated to be 51% women.
GLAAD uses the data from the Where We Are on TV report in work throughout the year to advocate leaders in the TV industry to include more diverse and substantive LGBTQ representations that accelerate acceptance.