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    Where We Are on TV 2023-2024

    From the Office of the President & CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis

    Sarah Kate Ellis

    GLAAD has tracked lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) characters on television for nearly three decades. This edition of the Where We Are on TV study meets the entertainment industry at a time of immense shift with changing business models, evolving platforms, and strong calls for storytelling that reflects the full diversity of its audience.

    GLAAD uses the findings of this study year-round to shape the GLAAD Media Institute’s work to drive representation and progress. Our Where We Are on TV study allows GLAAD to identify gaps in inclusion on television and create actionable insights and priorities for change. GLAAD’s GMI then serves as the leading resource in telling impactful, nuanced, and inclusive LGBTQ stories which resonate with our community and entertain audiences across the world. We know that LGBTQ stories are crucial now more than ever—it is paramount to see our lives reflected on screen, challenging the misinformation and harmful rhetoric that is running unchecked by politicians and journalists.

    LGBTQ stories have power and resonance that audiences are craving. Through their nationally representative research, MRI-Simmons reports that LGBTQ inclusion in entertainment

    is important to more than two in five of all American adults. WPP found that super majorities of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ 18-24 year olds actively seek out queer inclusive media

    (93 and 85% respectively)—but only 38% are satisfied with how LGBTQ people are represented. This tremendous gap provides an opportunity for networks and streaming companies to win audiences and subscribers who are hungry for more inclusive programming and fresh new perspectives. 

    This interest applies across genres and around the globe. Based on Nielsen’s Scarborough data, LGBTQ adults over-index in 18 of the most viewed genres including science fiction, dramas, comedies, kids’ shows, reality, international, novelas, late-night talk and more. The population of LGBTQ people is only growing; Gallup reports that more than one in five adult Gen Z Americans self-identify as LGBTQ (22%) and IPSOS has shown that this closely translates globally with 18% of Gen Z counted as LGBTQ across 30 countries. 

    Yet, TV networks and streamers are passing up on the opportunity to fully engage with this meaningful audience, and are leaving stories that will help bottom lines and earn buzz and accolades on the table. Huge strides have been made in the last decade of LGBTQ representation, and it is crucial that this progress is not lost. The past few years have seen the industry continue to limit new programming orders and increased vertical integration, allowing for fewer companies to have outsized control of viewer’s options. We’ve also seen inclusive storytelling of every type continue to be prematurely canceled in recent years – and audiences have noticed. A YouGov survey reported that a quarter of U.S. adults wait for a streaming originals’ finale before starting to watch, with 27 percent of those citing worry about a series potential cancellation with no resolution as their reasoning for delay. 

    At the same time, recent inclusive projects have faced criticism from a small but loud coordinated effort by fringe anti-LGBTQ activists who oppose LGBTQ inclusion. What they don’t want you to know is that LGBTQ-inclusive series which have received full marketing and promotional pushes have been massively successful—The Last of Us was the most watched show on Max in Latin America and Europe, GLAAD Media Award-winning Yellowjackets’ season two finale was the most streamed episode ever for Showtime, Abbott Elementary broke records for recent comedy ratings for ABC, and AMC’s Interview with the Vampire was the top new drama premiere on ad-supported cable upon its 2022 release. These stories with significant and impactful LGBTQ characters continue to be a rousing success. 

    Networks and streamers that do not tell nuanced and meaningful inclusive LGBTQ stories are at true risk of alienating a huge audience and tarnishing future brand recognition. Key younger audiences are looking for stories and characters that truly reflect themselves, their friends, family, and the world around them. If absent, these audiences will quickly begin to turn to competing providers, gaming and other forms of entertainment, and to social media to find those authentic characters. LGBTQ inclusion is key for these networks and streamers to stay relevant and grow their audience.

    The GLAAD Media Institute is a unique center of excellence, and our teams are proudly working every day as a valued partner to creators, writers, talent, executives, marketers, and more to drive culture change. We know the power of these stories and LGBTQ voices have never been more crucial as we look towards the future of a shifting industry and broader culture.

    In solidarity,

    Sarah Kate Ellis

    President & CEO, GLAAD

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