Showrunners for New TV Season Remain Mostly White and Male

TV Showrunner Diversity

Despite the success of series like “Black-ish,” “Empire,” and “Fresh Off the Boat,” the broadcast networks’ push for diversity hit a stumbling block with the rollout of the new fall lineup. A Variety investigation into new scripted shows for the 2016-17 season reveals that 90% of showrunners are white, and almost 80% are male.

This is based on information provided by the five broadcast networks, which gave Variety the names of the showrunners of their new scripted programs (a total of 50 across 38 new series). Variety independently confirmed the race and gender of each, via multiple sources. All names and data used for this story is available below. (Showrunner designations were not yet available for four series — two at NBC and two at ABC — and information on those programs was not included in the statistical analysis of the new season.)

Showrunners not only determine the creative direction of their programs; they also oversee the hiring, firing, and mentoring that gives the next generation of creators a chance to ascend. Shows run by white men tend to lead to more shows led by white men.

A lack of inclusion behind the scenes also affects storytelling. A study from USC Annenberg’s Institute for Diversity and Empowerment noted that actresses are more likely to receive speaking roles if women are creators. But that organization’s most recent study, which was published in 2015, reported that men outnumber women as creators by more than 3 to 1 in all realms of TV, including cable and streaming. Meanwhile, for the 2014-15 season, 19% of broadcast network programs had no speaking roles for African-American characters, and 59% had none for Asian characters, Annenberg says.

Of the 50 showrunners for the new season, two are women of color, and three are men of color. Studies by the Writers Guild of America show that non-white writers have constituted no more than 13% of writers-room employment for several years (and in some years, the figure has been even lower).

Variety found that women, who constitute 51% of the American population, will run 22% of the new shows. That’s not much better than the state of affairs in 1997-98, when 18% of the shows on the broadcast networks had women creators, according to San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

Women of color remain largely excluded: There were no non-white female showrunners on new shows for ABC, CBS, or the CW as of press time. The small number of writers of color of either gender working as showrunners on new broadcast network programs demonstrate that in many ways, the path to one of the most powerful positions in TV remains obstructed for them.

It’s worth noting that a greater array of perspectives and cultural backgrounds might have prevented the kind of outcry there has been in recent months over a rash of deaths on TV. Shocking exits will always be a part of the TV scene, especially as the sheer number of scripted programs continues to grow, but given that straight, white men run the vast majority of TV shows on the air, it’s not surprising to find that death comes more often for populations that are already under-represented on the small screen, i.e., female characters, LGBT characters and non-white characters (a trend statistically confirmed by a recent Vox numerical analysis of the most recent season).

Presented with Variety’s findings, reps for the five networks gave background information on efforts to create opportunities for women and people of color, but all declined to address the statistics for the new season on the record.

Here is the data available at the time of publication for new shows for the 2016-2017 season on the broadcast networks.

New ABC fall and midseason scripted programs

Liz Friedman (white female)
Liz Friedlander (white female)

Josh Berman (white male)

“Time After Time”
Kevin Williamson (white male)

“Downward Dog”
Kat Likkel (white female)
John Hoberg (white male)

“American Housewife”
Richard Weiner (white male)
Kenneth Schwartz (white male)

Scott Silveri (white male)

ABC shows not included in stats — showrunner designations not available

“Designated Survivor”
Executive Producers:
David Guggenheim (white male)
Simon Kinberg (white male)
Kiefer Sutherland (white male)
Mark Gordon (white male)
Nick Pepper (white male)
Suzan Bymel (white female)
Aditya Sood (South Asian male)

“Still Star-Crossed”
Executive Producers:
Heather Mitchell (white female)
Shonda Rhimes (African-American female)
Betsy Beers (white female)
Michael Goldstein (white male)
Michael Offer (white male)

New Fox fall and midseason scripted programs

“Lethal Weapon”
Matt Miller (white male)

“The Exorcist”
Rolin Jones (white male)

24: Legacy
Manny Coto (Hispanic male)
Evan Katz (white male)

Trey Calloway (white male)

Charles Murray (African-American male)
Tom Donaghy (white male)

“Prison Break”
Paul Scheuring (white male)

“Shots Fired”
Gina Prince-Bythewood (African-American female)

Kevin Falls (white male)

“Son of Zorn”
Sally Bradford (white female)

“The Mick”
John Chernin (white male)
Dave Chernin (white male)

“Making History”
Julius “Goldy” Sharpe (white male)

New CBS fall and midseason scripted programs

Mark Goffman (white male)

Peter Lenkov (white male)

“Pure Genius”
Jason Katims (white male)

“Training Day”
Barry Schindel (white male)

Tony Phelan (white male)
Joan Rater (white female)

“Kevin Can Wait”
Rock Reuben (white male)

“The Great Indoors”
Chris Harris (white male)

“Man with a Plan”
Jeff Filgo (white male)
Jackie Filgo (white female)

New NBC fall and midseason scripted programs

“Great News”
Tracey Wigfield: (white female)

Chris Moynihan (white male)

“Good Place”
Mike Schur (white male)

“Trial and Error”
Jeff Astrof (white male)
Matt Miller (white male)

Ben Queen (white male)

“Midnight Texas”
Monica Owusu-Breen (African-American female)

Eric Kripke (white male)
Shawn Ryan (white male)

“This is Us”
Dan Fogelman (white male)

Alexander Cary (white male)

“Emerald City”
David Schulner (white male)
Shaun Cassidy (white male)

NBC shows not included in stats — showrunner designations not available

“The Blacklist: Redemption”
Executive producers:
Jon Bokenkamp (white male)
John Eisendrath (white male)
John Fox (white male)
John Davis (white male)

“Chicago Justice”
Executive producers:
Dick Wolf (white male)
Peter Jankowski (white male)
Matt Olmstead (white male)
Derek Haas (white male)
Michael Brandt (white male)
Arthur Forney (African-American male)

New CW fall and midseasons scripted programs

Jeremy Carver (white male)

“No Tomorrow”
Corinne Brinkerhoff (white female)
Maggie Friedman (white female)

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Hispanic male)

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 42

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Maaz Kalim says:

    I really hate/loathe it when the so-called American “liberal” media, “SJWs,” yada-yada-yada, [incomprehensibly] fail to note Asia’s diversity [while ironically pining for “diversity”] by lazily using the blanket-term: “Asians[sic].” So hypocritical of them!* Makes their intent questionable.

    *Oh wait, talk about the entire human-civilisation. “Double-standards,” you know…

  2. Spin_303 says:

    When Paul Lee took over ABC a few years ago, he went all-in on offering more diverse programming: Shonda Rhimes shows (which all star or prominently feature minorities), Fresh Off the Boat (a favorite of mine), Blackish, Cristela, Dr Ken, American Crime, and a few others. That lineup is by far the most diversity ever seen at a major television network. Recently, the 2015 ratings for the big networks (ABC,CBS,NBC,FOX,CW) were released. The ratings for ABC fell 16%, the most by far of any network. The overall viewership was also down. Paul Lee was fired in February. In an industry that bases many of it’s decisions on market research, the “Diversity Movement” isn’t going so well. Diversity in television isn’t going to be a trend for much longer if the ratings don’t improve, so all of the people complaining about it need to turn on their TVs and start watching if they want it to continue.

    • Maaz Kalim says:

      Couldn’t Agreea More! People whine a lot but at the very same time ‘forget’ to acknowledge that the fault largely-relies on their side.

  3. Jonah says:

    Which female or minority showrunner got passed over in favor of the people in that collage?

    Name them.

    Or I’m not clicking on any more of these articles.

  4. txpatriot says:

    So what do you suggest? Don’t leave us hanging!

  5. A. C. says:

    When people, especially people of color, decide to start boycotting the broadcast networks’ version of diversity that’s when the landscape of TV programming will change for the better. The broadcast networks are in the pitiful shape they are in because of one track thinking and promoting of programs usually pushing a white male agenda, and most often a white homosexual agenda. So, if your the person sitting around allowing a certain segment of society to fill your eyes and ears with their garbage, then you have no reason to complain. Stop watching broadcast garbage if you want to see change in your tv programming. Money talks, and BS walks.

  6. pookysworld says:

    Hey writer it looks like you are desperate for attention. Get a life.

  7. Joe says:

    White females do better than Black males.

  8. David says:

    Stop race-baiting. Just stop it.

  9. Jacques Strappe says:


  10. Marie says:

    Diversity doesn’t happen overnight.

    • Mavis Trump says:

      You must be a very patient minority.
      Glad you don’t mind waiting for equal opportunity.
      The white people of the world thank you for staying in your place.

  11. But who will win ? says:

    Don’t worry. The impending presidential election will solve a lot of the problems.

    Think about that, Hollywood.

    It may well be a lose-lose situation.

    Ha Ha !

  12. Andy says:

    I’m all for more diversity but also looking for who is best for the job. Once they stop being “mostly white males”. We will complain that there are too many of whoever and not enough of something else. We can have mostly female showrunners but complain that there are no black female showrunners. We can have black female showrunners but complain there are no asian female showrunners.

    Regardless it does seem to be some light at the end. I’ve found that a lot more shows are very diverse in their crew. That will continue to grow and get better as time comes.

  13. Anon says:

    Jewish people are actually middle eastern. Just saying!

  14. Lee says:

    When I see these comments I realise that Hollywood’s biggest problem is that it has pandered to racists and misogynists for far too long and now the business is in danger of being overrun by them and it’s hurting the bottom line.
    This is how the GOP became the party of Trump.
    You’d better clean house before it’s too late.

  15. The television industry will reap what it sows......sooner, hopefully, than later says:

    So all the white people are the best. Of course. This is not news. It isn’t necessary to allow anyone else to penetrate the opaque and colorless ceiling. Just leave things the way they are and watch the television industry implode. That is exactly what should happen to insensitive bigots. Looking forward to continued low ratings for the fall season.

    Wouldn’t live be great if every show was a Big Bang Theory?

    EMPIRE is obviously a fluke. No talent and ability there………and fake ratings.

  16. herman says:

    How about a mosaic of photos of all the people in the NBA? Can you make one of those, Variety? Hmm, your argument will be what? That black people are just better at basketball? Or is that racist? I thought industries are supposed to be about getting the best? Maybe you are making incorrect assumptions that there are as many people of color out there who can play in the big leagues of creating and running TV shows. What proof do you have of that?

    • Lee says:

      So , what you’re saying is that white men are just naturally better at telling ALL stories than anyone?
      Because this isn’t like the NBA players being mostly black, this is like ALL sportsmen in America being mostly black, and ALL teams being owned by black men, which isn’t the case.
      Even the NBA that you’re crying about is really just a bunch of young black en working for old white men, who get most of the money.
      If you REALLY believe that 80% of the artistic talent in America resides in the 33% of the population that is white men, then your beliefs themselves need serious examination.

  17. Brooklyn Girl says:

    Wow the white male defensiveness here is rampant. The fact is there are no diverse show runners of because the predominantly male and white show runners that are in charge very rarely put people of color in their rooms thereby not creating the opportunity for those people to gain the length and depth of experience to move into those roles. Where this article is lacking is that it doesn’t lay out the complete lack of diversity in the lower writing/producing positions as well.

  18. John says:

    The best show’s should go on TV period. Anything else is just a waste of time and money.

    • alltheimportantfacts says:

      What is the best show? That is absolutely subjective specification. Networks motive is make money as much as possible, which means that they can throw critically acclaimed and popular shows to trash if saids shows cost too much to produce and continue mediocre procedural dramas with half of the viewership but one tenth of the cost per episode. And you don’t need that much talent to make cheapish mediocre shows IMO.

      • alltheimportantfacts says:

        I don’t have connections to get even opportunity to present my show idea to people that run production companies and networks. It is very big obstacle that I need to win before I can even think about speaking how good my writing is.

      • herman says:

        “And you don’t need that much talent to make cheapish mediocre shows IMO.” Clearly you do not work in entertainment and have never attempted to write anything. 99.99% of the population doesn’t have the talent to create the most mediocre show you’ve ever seen. Everybody thinks it’s easy until you try it. The cream rises to the top. By all means go and create one of those “cheapish mediocre shows.” If it’s so easy, go for it. You’ll be rich.

  19. witzshared says:

    Well, that explains all the remakes, reboots and little use of imagination.

  20. Sharknado99 says:

    Why does it matter ???

    • Lee says:

      It matters because studies have shown that when children in America watch TV, white boys have an increase in self esteem, while girls and children who are minorities suffer reduced self esteem.
      Kids don’t believe what they don’t see for very long and TV by white men, for white men grooms white boys for greatness and everyone else for mediocrity or success only after severe adversity.
      It’s harmful to all kids because it weakens white boys and makes them expect an easy ride, thus making them less able to cope cheerfully with life’s challenges and it diminishes everyone else, thus making the country less productive.

    • Sharknado100 says:

      Why do you matter?

  21. Berke Zane says:

    I love the fact that Variety pushes that old idea that even my dog has a good idea for a script. Maybe green lights went to track records and good projects. With the headline comes the notion that the nets left all these amazing projects behind.

    A lot of us get passed over after respecting the model that it takes 20 years to be an overnight success. So yeah, there’s a lot of white male stuff there. There’s also a lot of qualified people. I honestly can say I see so very few blacks and Hispanics that have done the day in and out for the prerequisite 15 years. Variety is treating the profession like it’s there for anyone that takes a correspondence course.

    • Lee says:

      So your opinion is that Black people, Latinos and Asians are lazier than white people and are less qualified to tell stories?
      That’s the position you want to take?

  22. Jane says:

    This is shameful of the TV industry. The amount of women and people of color (INCLUDING Asians and hispanics) who are fighting tooth and nail to become showrunners proves that this is 100% institutional and not “coincidental” (as so many top players have claimed). And therein lies the issue–because it’s so deeply entrenched in the the fabric of the industry, the power players don’t realize the biases they hold. Instead, they say to themselves, “She doesn’t seem like she’d be able to get things done” or “I don’t think his presence commands a room–we’ll have to pass”, not recognizing that their opinions of these marginalized people are influenced by their own experiences and identity. The truth is, at this point in time, white Americans are quickly becoming the minority population in America. And women have almost always made up 51% of the population. The percentage of the population consisting of Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and people of Middle-Eastern descent–not to mention the litany of people who are a mixture of all of the above, including white–is rising and rising quickly. I am not slamming white identity–it has it’s place in America just like every other identity. But it can no longer be expected to represent and dictate a culture that is much more diverse than that! As much as people like to downplay it, the entertainment industry (and ESPECIALLY television) influences the way our culture behaves. When 40% of the population consists of non-white people, 40% of showrunners should be people of color! And don’t give me the crap that “maybe they’re not as good”. I promise you, they are. They’re just not getting the opportunities. The bottom line is, everyone deserves to see their experience reflected in the media they consume. Change needs to happen, Hollywood.

  23. auburntigers34 says:

    Mostly white and mostly male? Oh no. I’m really surprised that you didn’t mention their sexual orientation? I’m guessing that data didn’t fit the agenda that you’re trying to push.

    • alltheimportantfacts says:

      Quick googling don’t reveal that any of them is publicly anything else than straight.

  24. Ari Manuel says:

    Keep it white..No one watched Roots and we’re sick of the PC garbage and pandering to minorities.

    • Lee says:

      Roots was by 5 white guys and one black guy. It wasn’t pandering because black people didn’t ask for it and mostly didn’t watch it.
      I hope you keep your ‘principled’ stance against pandering to minorities when America’s demographic shift makes white Americans a minority, but something tells me you’ll be all about representation then…

  25. Nanny Mo says:

    Wow, I’m loosing respect daily for Variety. This isn’t news in our modern world of seeing the person, not the person’s color or sex, this is social activism pretending to be journalism. (Much like the Academy rigging votes to make sure minorities win.) For shame.

    • Lee says:

      The Academy rigging votes? The Academy has given, I think 3 minorities an Oscar in the last 2 years.
      Where are these ‘wins’ in your fever dreams?
      Have YOU any shame?

  26. BillUSA says:

    At least the activist rag Variety is consistent, now that you’ve added racism to your repertoire.

    • Christopher says:

      Don’t kill the messenger. These are facts, hard as that may be to accept for some people who take their status (male,straight, white) for granted.

      • BillUSA says:

        Who said anything about killing – even metaphorically? What facts are you referring to? Why should I take my status for granted?

        Perhaps the reason why so many white males are “at the top” is due to their motivation, ingenuity and fortitude. They didn’t get there because of an overabundance of any certain demographic that needed to be unseated. They got there because they didn’t wait around for someone to hand it to them. They got there by following the laws of nature in which the strongest survive, the toughest win and the abhorrence of a vacuum.

        You should also ask yourself why it has taken to this point in human history for anyone to start begging for inclusion at the table. Your answer, if sincere, will reveal the true nature of this fashionable trend of white male-bashing – guilt and self-loathing.

        Attitudes like yours are the reason why this country is headed for doom.

      • del says:

        This is race baiting trash journalism.

More TV News from Variety