Bloomberg Línea — The Latino audience for audiovisual production in the United States generates between 20% and 30% of revenues, depending on the platform, and drives more than 50% of the growth. However, in the last five years, Latino representation in the country’s film and TV industry has declined, according to a report by the Latino Data Collaborative Think Tank (LDCTT).
The 2022 Full-Year LDC US Latinos in Media Report, which surveys U.S. Latino representation in shows and movies over the past five years, reports that by the last quarter of 2022 Latino participation was down to 2019 levels.
This report censored all top-rated shows, as well as original movies available on streaming platforms and the top 100 highest-grossing movies each year at the cinema.
The latest indicators reveal that Latinos make up only 2.6% of lead actors in programs, 1.4% of producers and 1.5% of TV directors, despite the fact that Latinos represent 19% of the US population and more than 25% of US youth.
According to Ana Valdez, CEO of Latin Donor Collaborative, the gap between Latino representation in US media and reality is “devastating.”
“We don’t exist because there is a devastating gap between the reality of who we are as Latinos and the way we are portrayed and the way we are imagined,” Valdez said in an interview with Bloomberg Linea.
There is a a similar reality in film, the report highlights, as Latinos represent only 5.2% of lead actors and 5.1% of co-stars or supporting actors; 3.5% of screenwriters and 2.6% of directors.
Latino representation by platform type
Cable and premium cable television platforms had the lowest Latino representation in the United States. According to the report, premium cable had zero Latino leads and only nine of 800 episodes led by a U.S. Latino.
On traditional cable, only 1.1% of shows had a US Latino lead actor or actress. US Latino-led episodes were 0.4%. Although cable is losing viewership at a rapid rate, it still represents approximately 30% of the market.
Meanwhile, on streaming platforms, 3.2% of Latinos could be seen in lead roles, 3.5% as co-stars and 2% in directing.
According to Nielsen, Latino on-screen representation is 9.29% in streaming, 2.33% in cable and 5.42% in English-language television.
The Latino stereotype
The Latino stereotype is mostly negative on television, and this was seen with 3.1% of the main actors in television series and 2.1% of co-stars.
Examples of these roles included undocumented immigrants, orphans or people abandoned by a parent; poor or uneducated. Thus, the message conveyed is that Latinos tend to be gang members, become drug dealers or, ultimately, steal opportunities from US-born Anglo-Americans, the report cites.
Meanwhile, in terms of genre or type of content, drama saw the highest representation (6.2%) of Latinos as lead actors.
Comedy was second in leading roles, with a representation of 4.7%. In television specials, only 3.9% of the lead actors were Latino.
The underrepresentation of Latinos, meanwhile, can also be seen in talk shows and alternative genres. Latino lead actors and directors are virtually invisible in talk shows (0%).
In the case of the alternative genre, which had the largest number of programs this year (858), only nine programs (1%) had a US Latino protagonist and only 29 episodes (0.3%) were directed by a US-based Latino director.
‘We are invisible’
Ana Valdez, who in addition to leading LDC’s initiatives has her own production company, Valdez Productions, says that the lack of representation of Latinos in the US mass media (beyond the negative, such as presenting them as bearers of bad news or with roles as drug dealers or servants in movies and series), derives from the fact that the large media companies in the country prefer to ignore the community.
“They have simply ignored us. We are invisible, but when they make us visible we are negatively visible,” says Valdez.
Two recent examples of the failure of major streaming platforms to include Latinos detailed in the report are Warner Brothers Discovery (WBD) which shortly after its merger with Discovery, HBOMax canceled most of its critically acclaimed scripted Latino shows; and Netflix which produces an average of 230 shows a year, and only had four Latino leads, less than 2% of its total shows.
Despite Netflix’s (NFLX) low percentage, two of those four series, Wednesday and The Lincoln Lawyer, were extremely popular with record ratings. Wednesday became the second-most watched series in the platform’s history.
Other streaming platforms such as Prime Video, Discovery+, Paramount+ and Disney+ have not included Latino protagonists in their movies.
In contrast, Apple TV+ is one of the few platforms that invests in Latino talent for its movies, but has not made the same effort for its TV shows, the report says.
Hulu stands out among digital platforms, with 14.8% representation of Latino protagonists in its 27 films. This figure is the highest in the entire industry.
There is also an invisibility of Latinos in Hollywood. Major studios such as A24, Focus Features, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Studios did not include any Latino protagonists.
Despite this, Latinos are the biggest movie ticket buyers.
“Our research has shown that US Latinos choose entertainment, prefer brands and increase their spending frequency when they see other Latinos in leading roles, are aware that there are Latinos behind the camera and when they can enjoy mainstream US Latino stories,” says Sol Trujillo, co-founder and CEO of Latino Donor Collaborative.