Insights

How Latino representation has progressed in recent years

1 July, 2021

A recent CAA/Parrot Analytics report analyzed the growth in demand and supply of racially diverse TV programs. The study shows how much the landscape of diverse TV content in the U.S has improved in just a few years.

For instance, the study shows that both demand and supply of diverse shows increased between 2017 and 2019. The supply went from 50 debuts in 2017, to 71 in 2019. Meanwhile, the demand for diverse debuts went from 8x to 17x the average in the period. 

The increase wasn’t reflected equally for different minority groups, however. 

Latinos are among those that got the worst end of the deal. They are a historically underrepresented minority and, unfortunately, have remained so. According to the report, they still make up only 5% of the talent on TV, despite being 15% of the population in the U.S. Furthermore, at times it seems like a struggle to keep Latino-led shows going, as a lot of them often get cancelled too soon.

Whilst there has been some improvement in representing Latin Americans on TV, there’s still much work to be done.

With that in mind, we will take a retrospective look at shows from the past few years to analyze how Latino characters show up. (Note: This is not a comprehensive list of every show with prominent Hispanic talent. Rather, it’s an overview of the market since 2017 compiled to better understand where we stand today and what we can expect from the future of Latinos on television.)

⁠Stereotypes looming over 2017

2017 was a mixed bag in regards to positive Latino representation. 

This was the final year of Netflix’s Narcos, a series about infamous Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar. It was wildly successful and generated multiple off-shoots, causing the market to be oversaturated with South American characters as criminals. 

Aside from NarcosOrange Is the New Black was going at full force in 2017. The prison-set Netflix original was among the top 30 most in-demand shows that year and also contributed to the overrepresentation of Latinos as outlaws.

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Taking a detailed look at the graphs, we see that season 3 of Narcos performed well with audiences. The series recorded 11x the demand average that year. Additionally, it hit an outstanding peak of 30.5x the demand average on the week of release.

Meanwhile, Telemundo’s Surviving Escobar: Alias JJ and Univision’s El Chapo are shows with similar themes that debuted in the aftermath of Narcos’ success. Surviving Escobar: Alias JJ recorded 0.8x the demand average for the year, while El Chapo had 3.1x the average. Furthermore, the former peaked at 4x, while the latter peaked at 6.4x the demand average.

In tandem, season five of Orange Is The New Black registered 14.9x the demand average that year. Additionally, the peak demand for the season was 29.4x the average on the week of release.

These shows were responsible for the bulk of Latino talent on television but reinforced negative stereotypes by linking the minority to criminality. Fortunately, this scenario is evolving.

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One of the big premieres of the year, Netflix’s One Day At A Time came to be a beloved show for its positive Latino representation. Looking at the graph, we can see how its debut season performed compared to the season of Orange Is The New Black airing that same year. The recently-launched show did well in its own right, recording 2x the demand average for the year and peaked at 5.8x.

A new scene in 2018

2018 brought in a new wave of Latin American presence. Although not too numerous, debuts with prominent Latino talent covered a plethora of themes. Shows like FX’s Pose, Netflix’s On My Block, and Starz’ Vida elevated Latinos on TV by shifting away from stereotypes previously portrayed.

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Pose - a series telling the story of ball culture in the U.S during the Trump era - recorded 8.6x the demand average that year. The show - that deals with marginalized groups, and the issues they face - had a peak of 21.9x the demand average in its first season.

Other debuts, like On My Block and Vida, performed well in their own right. The Netflix show - that navigates the lives of young teenagers of colour - had 8.2x the demand average for the year. It also earned a peak of 23.1x the demand average. Meanwhile, Vida had 2.2x the demand average for the year and a peak of 8.6x the average.

The shows that were gone too soon in 2019

In 2019, some popular shows with prominent Latino representation came to an end. The last season of Orange Is the New Black aired with very high demand. It recorded 19.6x the demand average for the year and peaked at 63.3x.

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In tandem, Jane The Virgin also finished that year on its fifth season. The show - which charts the life of Jane Villanueva after she gets artificially inseminated - was somewhat short-lived, but performed well with the public. Its last season had 13.3x the demand average over the year and peaked at 23.7x.

Another show that followed the trend of being cancelled too soon is USA Network's Pearson. The Suits spin-off premiered in 2019 with a Latino lead, but only lasted for a single season. It recorded 4.8x the demand average that year, and interest for the series peaked at 14.2x the average.

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Still on the topic of short-lived debuts, Monarca was one of the shows with important Latin American representation that premiered that year. Produced by Salma Hayek’s company, the Netflix Original was cancelled after two seasons. It recorded 0.2x the demand average in its debut year and peaked at exactly the average demand (1x).

Finally, Netflix’s new show, Mr Iglesias, curbed the fate other Latino-led shows had and got picked up for another season. In its debut year, the show recorded 2.5x the demand average and peaked at 16.6x.

The rollercoaster of 2020

As it was in every other realm, 2020 was, too, a crazy year for Latin American representation on TV. Along with COVID, it delivered many cancelled shows with good representation. On the other hand, a good number of debuts got picked for more seasons.

Among the shows that got cancelled were Netflix’s The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels and CBS’ Broke. All premiered in 2020 but didn’t get the chance to continue. 

It’s unfortunate, especially considering their good demand performance. The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia had the lowest performance at 1.6x the demand average and a peak of 7.1x. Meanwhile, Broke registered 4.4x the demand average and a peak of 9.4x. Finally, Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels garnered impressive interest, earning 10.7x the demand average and a tall peak of 22.7x.

Meanwhile, One Day At a Time was cancelled for the second time in 2020. It had previously been cancelled by Netflix in 2019 and picked up by Pop TV after thousands of fans signed petitions to renew it. The series - which follows the peaks and valleys of a Cuban American family - was a hit with audiences. The show achieved its record demand of 13.1x the average in 2020.

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Moreover, the last season was the series’ best performing one. It earned a peak of 24.9x the demand average. For comparison, its second-best performing season peaked at only 21.1x.

Despite the bitterness caused by the loss of these good shows, several debuts from the year got picked up for a second season. Among them are Disney+ Diary of a Future President, Netflix’s Selena: The Series and Hulu’s Love, Victor.

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Diary of a Future President recorded 2.1x the demand average for the year and peaked at 5.7x. Meanwhile, Selena: The Series had an even more impressive performance, recording 2.3x the demand average and peaking at 12.7x. Finally, Love, Victor had 3.3x the demand average for the year and peaked at 14.4x.

What do we get in 2021?

With the COVID pandemonium starting to settle in the U.S, more shows can debut in 2021. Among those are Netflix’ Somos and HBO’s La Muchacha Que Limpia.

Somos - the work of Brokeback Mountain producer James Schamus - will premiere on June 30th. It is based on the real story of a DEA operation in Mexico that went wrong and resulted in the massacre of hundreds of innocent civilians.

In tandem, La Muchacha Que Limpia is an adaptation of an Argentinian series that premiered on June 20th. It tells the story of a servant who fears for her life after witnessing a crime, so decides to help the criminals to save herself. 

Furthermore, the second season of successful 2020 shows, such as Love, Victor, Netflix Selena: The Series and Disney+ Diary of a Future President premiered in May and are available on their respective streaming platforms.

By looking at the past few years, we realize Latino representation on TV has positively progressed. 

We can see an increasing variety of stories being told of the many obstacles faced by this community. On the other hand, at times audiences have to fight to keep good shows going, which can feel discouraging. 

But, ultimately, there is every reason to keep on producing diverse content, because this makes good business sense, especially on a global scale: The growth in demand for diverse content means there’s an incentive to produce such content, and we will hopefully continue to see more Latin American talent on television.

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