One panelist maintains diversity should not be thought of as a color issue, but “diversity of thought” and presenting varied viewpoints.
Is Hollywood really ready to embrace diversity? The answer is yes — if you are willing to believe panelists at MIPCOM’s first-ever Diversity Summit underway in Cannes.
Citing the success of hit show Empire in the United States and successful syndication of other shows to international markets, some entertainment executives are maintaining a tipping point has been reached in developing additional shows with diverse casts and themes.
The Hollywood Reporter reported from Cannes:
The international market has changed from the time when The Wire, widely considered one of the best shows ever made, couldn’t sell abroad when it aired 2002-2008, noted A+E Networks president, international Sean Cohan.
Viacom executive vp international brand development Michael Armstrong: “I’d like to take the notion that we need to make the business case for diversity and bury that in the sand,” he said. “I’d say that making diverse content is the business case for being successful.”
In fact, “diversity is money” said All3Media senior vp international format production Nick Smith. Using U.K. numbers, Smith presented the data case for diversity in casting. The high-end dramas that define this “golden age of television” tend to underperform in minority communities, he noted, including prestige programming like The Night Manager, Mr Selfridge andCall the Midwife, which have predominantly white casts.
The drama that demographically over-performs in the U.K. is The Walking Dead, which boasts an almost incidentally diverse cast that is focused on fighting zombies.
The prevailing thought from Cannes is that people want to see images that represent their view of life.
Individuals are willing to “pay up for people who look like them,” said Tonje Bakang, CEO of Afrostream, which collates black content from around the globe. “Programming is a business opportunity, not just marketing,” he said.
“At what point do you have black stories, or trans stories or gay stories? I think that’s the next level of diversity. Those are harder,” said Sony’s Keith Le Goy.
We can only hope that these Hollywood execs are being honest and not just selling us another dose of the same old, same old.