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Despite Economic Clout And A Youthful Population, Latinos Continue To Be Overlooked By Hollywood – Forbes

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Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan promoting Father Of The Bride. It is one of the few movies featuring … [+] a predominant Latino cast. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images)
With a population of 62.1 million Latinos have been for years the largest ethnic group in the U.S. accounting for 18.6% of the population. From the 2010 to 2020 Census the population of Latinos grew by 23%, compared to 7.4% for the general population. Also, the median age of Latinos is 29.8 younger than any other ethnic group. In addition, Latinos account for 25% of Generation Z and 30% of Generation Alpha.
Latinos have also an economic power, their buying power now stands at $1.9 trillion, an increase of 87% over the past decade, compared to +51% for non-Latinos. Furthermore, with a total economic output of $2.8 trillion, if Latinos were a separate nation, they would have the fifth largest economy (GDP) in the world, ranking ahead of four G7 nations; the United Kingdom, France. Italy and Canada (as well as Russia). In fact, over the past ten years only China and India have had a faster growing economy than Latinos
With their continued growth, size, economic clout and a younger skewing population, Latinos have become an important target for businesses, marketers and politicians. Latinos are also heavy viewers of streaming video and go to movies more often than any other ethnic segment. Yet, Hollywood continues to bypass Latinos when it comes to casting actors in lead or co-lead roles, directing, screenwriting and producing movies or television programs.
To coincide with National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15), a number of studies were released that emphasized the continued importance of Latinos and their continued absence in the video entertainment industry.
A recent survey from the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) released the Cultural Inclusion Accelerator™ Report Card which found 59% of Hispanics felt invisible or under-represented in media and 75% saw stereotypical portrayals in programs and movies.
The Report Card leverages insights gathered by the Cultural Insights Impact Measure (CIIM™) which has become marketing and advertising industry standard used by hundreds of top brands to evaluate viewers’ perceptions of ads and content. CIIM tested nearly 800 TV shows and movies with over 69,000 evaluations of Hispanic viewers. Participants evaluated shows and movies based on 10 key cultural attributes: cultural values, representation, celebrations, pride, respect, identification, authenticity, unbiased, respect, and positive role models.
Also, Nielsen NLSN in conjunction with Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC) issued a report highlighting the impact Latinos have been having on streaming video. With its younger age base, streaming has been, by far, the most popular form of video entertainment among Latinos compared to other ethnic segments. In July Nielsen found Latinos spent 43.6% of their viewing share with streaming video. Well above, the audience share of 34.8% for the total U.S. Among Latinos Netflix NFLX (12.6% share) and YouTube (12.2% share) accounted for nearly one-quarter of all their video viewing for the month.
The Nielsen, LDC study highlights the importance of Latinos and the content they watch. For example, 41% of Latinos feel there’s not enough content that represents them, up from 39% from 2021. Hispanics are 11% more likely to say that streaming video has content most relevant to their identity group. 56% of Latinos say they’re more likely to continue watching content when it features someone from their identity group.
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo attends Netflix’s ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ special screening & reception at The … [+] London West Hollywood on May 09, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Netflix )
In recent months a number of streamed programs with a strong Latino cast have attracted audiences.
· In mid-June, HBO Max released a reboot of Father of the Bride. This third movie version focused on a Cuban-American family led by Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan. Nielsen reports the film added 448,000 new viewers who had never watched HBO Max before, 48% of them were Latino. More importantly they continued to watch HBO Max afterwards.
· Netflix premiered The Lincoln Lawyer on May 13, 2022 with Mexican-American actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo in the titular role. Based on the best-selling novel by Michael Connelly, the series attracted 114,000 viewers who hadn’t watched Netflix in the previous six weeks. Furthermore, 24% of them were Latino and they continued to watch Netflix afterwards.
· HBO Max released the Gordita Chronicles in late June. The comedy focused on a Latino reporter remembering her childhood in 1980s Miami as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. The ten episodes added 138,000 new viewers who hadn’t watched HBO Max in the previous four weeks. They continued to watch HBO Max afterwards and 57% of them were Latino. The series however, was not renewed for a second season.
Nonetheless, so far this year Netflix had just two Latino leads across all of its 124 shows and Apple TV+ has had only one among its 44 shows.
Stacie de Armas SVP, Diverse insights & Intelligence at Nielsen notes, “When given the appropriate promotion and time to gain an audience, Latino-led shows perform very well — not just with Latinos but also all audiences. Unfortunately, many Latino-led shows are under intense scrutiny to be successful quickly, yet don’t get the promotional resources or runway to gain awareness.”
Stacie de Armas continues, “Additionally, search algorithms within streaming platforms are designed to serve up content based on what you’re already watching. To allow these Latino-led shows to be discovered by new audiences, the algorithms need to evolve beyond rudimentary search models and be more nuanced, bring in new social data and have less cultural bias. Shows can then be served up to new audiences outside of what the algorithm determines is the key audience demographic.”
Looking at other video platforms, the audience viewing share for Latinos on broadcast television was 23.1% slightly above the composite viewing share of 21.6%. Conversely, for cable television viewing, Latinos was the lowest share among video sources at only 20.0%, well below the total U.S. viewing share of 34.4%. Hence, in the first quarter Latino adults (age 18+) averaged only 15 hours and 26 minutes each week watching traditional (live and time-shifted) television compared to 24 hours and 14 minutes for total U.S. adults.
Percentage of Time With TV: July 2022
Total U.S. Latinos
Broadcast TV 21.6% 23.1%
Cable TV 34.4% 20.0%
Streaming 34.8% 43.6%
Other 9.2% 13.3%
Read as 43.6% of Latinos time spent with TV in July was 43.6% were with streaming.
Source: Nielsen NPOWER National TV Panel; Streaming Platform Ratings
Looking at cable and premium networks the figures are also dismal, the LDC found that none of the 331 shows across 25 networks analyzed had a Latino showrunner. In addition, such popular cable networks as Discovery, HGTV, TLC and HBO (all owned by Warner Bros. Discovery WBD ) had no Latino leads in any of their programs.
Ana Valdez, President and CEO of the Latino Donor Collaborative says, “The biggest takeaway of this data is the amount of money and business being left on the table by not representing U.S. Latinos and, therefore, by being unable to deliver the Latino consumer/audience to their advertisers, their stakeholders, and their American and global audience.”
Ana Valdez continues, “The invisibility of U.S. Latinos in Hollywood’s content is a missed opportunity to grow revenue for shareholders and clients. This report and the Latino Talent Database ‘The Source’ will help studios and networks to close the market proportionate gap between the percentage of Latino youth in America (25%) and their current level of representation (only 3.1% of all leads on shows, and 5.2% on films).”
To no surprise only two Latinos had been nominated for Emmy Awards for acting this year; Oscar Isaac was nominated for HBO’s Scenes from a Marriage and Colman Domingo won an Emmy for HBO’s Euphoria.
Carlos Santiago, co-founder of AIMM and President and Co-Architect, Cultural Inclusion Accelerator™, CIIM™ (Cultural Insights Impact Measure™), adds, “The industry lacks representation behind the camera at all points across the creation and selection of content that makes it to the screens. Even though TV is going through a content renaissance, Hollywood continues to present Latinos superficially. It often resorts to whitewashing and cultural appropriation rather than creating authentic and culturally rich storylines. For decades Hollywood has assumed that all audiences like the same things and don’t need to be reflected.”
For years, Latinos have also been the heaviest moviegoers. With movie theaters gradually re-opening, in 2021, the MPA THEME study reported Latinos had the highest per capita attendance of any ethnic group. On average, last year Latinos went to the cinema 1.7 times. In the pre-COVID year of 2018 and 2019 Latinos went to movie theaters an average of 4.5 times higher, again more than any other group. Yet, the LDC reported Latinos accounted for only 3.5% of the screenwriters and at 2.6% even fewer were directors.
Among the top box office films of 2021 was F9: The Fast Saga. The popular movie franchise had the highest share of Latino moviegoers at 37%, matching the share of non-Latino whites. As part of the promotion, Vin Diesel spoke in Spanish inviting Latinos to come back to the theaters to watch the film.
Carlos Santiago adds, “The best way to accelerate how Hollywood acknowledges Hispanics is for advertisers to change the currency that determines where they place their ad dollars, especially with the advent of mass and targeted ad-supported streaming platforms. The traditional media buying currency of reach ought to be replaced with measures of the quality of the connection with audiences because these enhance viewer preference. When combined with culturally authentic ads, the net effect is higher sales outcomes.”
To sum up, Latinos have a higher chance of being a twin than getting a leading role in a mainstream TV program or film.


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