The film and television industry could be leaving more than $10 billion on the table by excluding Black content creators from telling their stories, a new study has found.
On Thursday, consulting firm McKinsey published a report on the state of diversity in Hollywood and concluded—like many, many, many other studies before it—that the industry is severely lacking when it comes to inclusive representation both in front of and behind the camera. But the study also showed that audiences are only growing hungrier for more inclusive stories—and, as a result, executives are leaving a major potential revenue stream untouched if they do not move to meet the demand. In other words: If the industry isn’t going to be more inclusive, it should know that a lack of representation comes at a cost.
“Barriers that undermine equity in content development, financing, marketing, and distribution come at a substantial cost to the film and TV industry,” the study reads. “We estimate that the film and TV industry could unlock more than $10 billion in annual revenues simply by addressing these barriers, the equivalent of a 7% expansion in baseline industry revenues.”
Even $10 billion is aiming low, the study notes, surmising that audience demand for inclusive work easily outpaces the industry’s supply.
McKinsey’s study—written by Jonathan Dunn, Sheldon Lyn, Nony Onyeador, and Ammanuel Zegeye—focused on the film and TV ecosystem that Black creators must navigate, examining the workplace dynamics of everyone from writers to producers to executives to crew members. More than 50 Black and non-Black anonymous participants in varying positions across the industry were interviewed for the study, which also culled and compiled research from a UCLA Hollywood diversity report, Nielsen’s diverse representation and inclusion on TV report, and USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative.
The study found that less than 6% of the writers, directors, and producers of U.S.–produced films are Black. When Black creators hold positions of power, they tend to be more likely to create opportunities for other Black talent. “Black talent tends to be shut out of projects unless senior team members are Black,” the study states explicitly. This was found to be true across both film and television. “If a film’s producer is Black, the film is far more likely to have a Black director,” the study notes. “When a show’s creator is Black, it is much more likely that the showrunner (the leading producer) is Black. Specifically, more than four out of five shows with a Black creator have a Black showrunner.”
To be clear, though, the industry remains disproportionately homogenous, the study notes, pointing out that 87% of TV executives and 92% of film executives are white. In order to rectify the disparity, the study offers both broad and granular solutions. Execs should, in general, make an effort to recruit more Black talent; in addition, studios could tie pay bonuses to meeting diversity targets. And though the study placed a keen emphasis on finances and revenue streams, the focus is ultimately to home in on the responsibility that studios and networks have to deliver inclusive offerings to audiences all over the world.
“When the onscreen and offscreen representation of Black talent matches the share of Black Americans, and when the industry succeeds in dismantling the ubiquitous workplace barriers preventing Black creators from telling a range of stories, viewers of all races will gain access to the many different products of Black creative expression,” the study reads. “Ultimately, the reshaping of the film and TV ecosystem will play a role in reshaping ideas on race—and the advancement of racial equity—in America and beyond.”
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— On With the Show! See the 2021 Hollywood Portfolio
— Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins on The Silence of the Lambs’ Legacy
— X-Rated: The Myths and Legends of Midnight Cowboy
— Michael B. Jordan on Losing Chadwick Boseman
— Justice League: The Heartbreaking True Story of the Snyder Cut
— Watch Zendaya Answer the Personality-Revealing Proust Questionnaire
— Why Mia Farrow Is Still Scared of Woody Allen
— Old Hollywood Book Club: Lauren Bacall’s Long, Lucky Life
— From the Archive: Inside Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s Legendary Hollywood Romance
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.