Lead Roles for Latinos Have Seen ‘No Significant Increase’ in Film and TV, New Report Says

The Latino Donor Collaborative study comes during National Hispanic Heritage Month, highlighting the lack of representation for a group that represents a fifth of the U.S. population

A young Latino man wears a neon blue superhero costume, the blue lit up, with his helmet down, showing his face. There are two antennae sticking up from his shoulders.
Xolo Maridueña as Blue Beetle (Warner Bros. Pictures)

The number of TV shows and movies with Latino leads continues to lag far behind the proportion of the United States population they represent. According to their 2023 U.S. Latinos in Media Report from nonprofit think tank the Latino Donor Collaborative, the number of Latino leads on TV and film grew a small amount in 2023 — 2.6% to 3.3% on TV, 5.1% to 5.7% in film.

Those TV numbers represent 33 out of 987 shows that have aired this year featuring Latino leads. Behind the camera, 189 of the 9,870 episodes aired were directed by Latinos.

“Unfortunately, this report confirms there has been no significant increase in U.S. Latino representation in shows and films” since the report first started analyzing data in 2018, the report states.

Latino representation tracks significantly behind other large racial groups. The LDC cites Nielsen data showing that Latino people make up 19.1% of the population but just 7.1% of characters on screen. That compares with Black people making up 13.6% of the U.S. population but 21% of on-screen characters, while Asian American people make up 6.3% of the population and 7.6% of roles on screen.

“We have seen an exciting and much-needed diversification in entertainment content in recent years. Unfortunately, Latinos have not benefited from this movement,” the report states.

The LDC focuses on areas for potential economic growth, “highlighting significant business blind spots within the industry’s strategic landscape,” its president/CEO Ana Valdez said in a statement. The organization’s analysis focuses on the number of Latino leads and co-leads in front of the camera, as well as the number of Latino showrunners and directors behind the camera.

“The media industry, which is trying to cut costs and grow its audience, continues to ignore a cohort that is nothing but growth,” the group’s co-founder and chairman Sol Trujillo said in a statement. “This cohort is a solution to the current pivot the industry is experiencing.”

NBC was the only broadcast network that saw its numbers grow both in front of and behind the camera, according to the group’s stats. This year, there were no Latino leads on CBS or The CW and no Latino showrunners at ABC or Fox.

On streaming shows, Latinos make up 3.4% of the lead roles and 5.4% of co-leads. The number of Latino leads also dropped on several of the major streamers, including Disney+, Max, Apple TV+ and Hulu. Showtime, Paramount, Starz and MGM+ all had zero Latino leads in 2023. HBO’s Latino co-lead number declined from 1.8% to 1%.

“U.S. Latinos, our country’s youngest cohort, represent nearly 1 in 5 Americans, and account for over $3.2 trillion in GDP, making it the 5th largest economy in the world if it were a stand-alone country,” Trujillo said. He notes that Latino GDP grows on average two-and-a-half times faster than that of non-Latinos.

Most cable channels feature zero Latino leads, co-leads, showrunners or directors, according to the report.

“No industry has ignored this cohort year after year as blatantly as cable television,” the report states. “It seems that cable channel decision-makers have decided that Latinos do not belong in their programming.”

Latino people fare slightly better in features, with 5.7% of films including Latino leads and 10.5% with Latino co-leads. These films include 13 of the 20 highest-grossing films of the year, according to the group.

Thriller and horror films released this year included no Latino leads and didn’t come from Latino screenwriters or directors. Overall, 6.1% of this year’s movies were written by Latinos and 4.9% were directed by Latinos.

The LDC argues that Latino audiences are searching for platforms that showcase their stories and where they are able to create content, noting that Latinos spent 57% more time on YouTube than non-Hispanic white people. Latino usage of TikTok is also higher than the norm, with 31% of U.S. Latinos on the platform versus a 21% average across groups. One of the reasons for that is a younger average age, with a Latino median age of 30 versus 38 for the nation as a whole, according to the report.

“Increasing Latino representation in media will resonate with a burgeoning population that values content mirroring their culture and identity,” Trujillo said.

You can find the full 2o23 LDC U.S. Latinos in Media Report here. The LDC is currently hosting L’Attitude, a Latino business conference. It runs through this Saturday in Miami Beach.


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