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Record Number of TV Episodes Directed by Women or Directors of Color (Study)

According to the Directors Guild of America, the TV industry has made major gains in terms of diversity.

Half of all TV episodes in the 2018-19 season were directed by women or directors of color for the first time, according to a DGA report released on Tuesday.

The DGA’s episodic television director inclusion report noted that the overall percentage of women and people of color had increased from last year’s prior high of 42.5%, and from 21% five years ago. The percentage of episodes directed by women grew to a record 31%, more than doubling in the past five years. The percentage of episodes helmed by directors of color rose to a new high of 27%, increasing more than 40% in the past five years.

“Inclusion has been a priority of our guild for a very long time as we’ve pushed the studios, networks and producers to do better in their hiring,” DGA president Thomas Schlamme said. “While change had been glacial in past years, we’re pleased and incredibly encouraged to see the recent commitment undertaken by the industry.”

Diversity Report 2018-2019

The DGA examined more than 4,300 episodes produced in the 2018-19 television season. That number was down from just over 4,400 episodes the season before, and represents the second consecutive year of declines following an all-time peak of roughly 4,500 episodes in the 2016-17 season.

The report found that 49% of first-time hires in the 2018-19 season were women, an increase from 41% in the 2017-18 season, and 33% from two seasons ago. It also said 29% of first-time hires were directors of color, which was down slightly from last year’s record of 31%, but up from the previous high of 27% two years ago.

Disney/ABC had the top overall mark among the eight largest media companies, with 57.7% of episodes directed by a woman or person of color, followed by HBO with 56%, Fox with 52.4%, Netflix with 52.3%, Warner Bros. with 50.4%, NBCUniversal with 49.7%, CBS with 46.6% and Sony with 46.1%

Diversity Report 2018-2019 TV Studios

The report also contained a cautionary note that the DGA’s long-term analyses have repeatedly shown that most first-time directors don’t move on to develop directing careers. The guild cited the widespread and growing practice of employers giving “perk” directing assignments to series insiders — those employed on a series in another capacity — who are far less diverse as a group than non-affiliated directors.

The DGA noted Tuesday that its studies following the career paths of first-time directors over the past decade have found that less than a quarter of series insider hires developed directing careers, while nearly three-quarters of hires not affiliated with a series have gone on to directing careers.

Employers hired insiders for 55% of the first-time TV directing jobs last season, the report said. Schlamme called on producers to revise that practice.

“Producers hold in their hands the power to grant an opportunity that can set up an aspiring TV director for a lifelong career doing what they dreamed of,” Schlamme said. “And while we’re encouraged to see nearly half of first jobs went to women last year, and nearly a third went to directors of color — we still have a lot of concern over the underlying hiring practices that reduce the number of jobs available to budding and experienced directors alike. The heart of the issue is that producers aren’t factoring in that every job given to someone who does not pursue a directing career equals an opportunity withheld.”

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