Netflix will invest $100m over the next five years in organisations with a proven record championing underrepresented communities in film and TV through its Netflix Fund for Creative Equity.
The fund will also be used to back in-house initiatives to identify, train and provide job placement globally for emerging talent.
The development comes as the streamer unveiled on Friday (February 26) findings from a study by renowned researcher Dr. Stacy Smith, the founder and director of USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, whose team analysed Netflix’s US commissioned films and series from 2018-19.
The report found that across 22 inclusion indicators, 19 showed an improvement year-on-year. Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said there were “notable representation gaps” in film and series for Latinx, Middle Eastern / North African, American Indian / Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islanders.
The study looked at 126 live-action, scripted and US-based Netflix original films and 180 series, and found that 48.4% of films and 54.5% of series had girls or women as leads or co-leads.
In terms of the level of women in key creative positions across Netflix series compared to the broader industry, Netflix trailed in the producers and directors category (36.7% vs. 40%, and 27.7% vs. 28%, respectively), and was ahead of broader industry levels in terms of writers (36.4% vs. 30%) and creators (29.8% vs. 23.5%).
Women of colour directors on Netflix films accounted for 6.2% compared to 2.2% of top films industry-wide.
Looking at underrepresented key creatives in film, directors accounted for 16.9% to trail 20.5% industry-wide; writers made up 16.4% against 12.2% from the top-grossing films; and producers accounted for 13% compared to 15.1% industry-wide.
Turning to the percentage of leads and co-leads who were people of colour, 21.4% in film and 10.8% in series were black. Some 14.7% of the US population identifies as black/African America.
Latinx leads and co-leads accounted for 4% of film and 1.7% of series roles compared to a 12% share of the country’s population. Asians slightly over-indexed in film on 7.1% film and under-indexed in series on 1.7% series compared to 7% population share.
Leads and co-leads from Middle Eastern and North Africa over-indexed in film on 1.6% and under-indexed in series on less than 1% compared to 1.1%; American Indian/Alaskan Native under-indexed with 1.6% in film and zero in series versus 2.1% population representation; and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders were less than 1% across all metrics.
The report found that LBGTQ and characters with disabilities were rare in film and series, accounting for 4% and 1.1% of lead and co-lead roles, 4.3% and 6.1% of main cast, and 2% and 3.3% of speaking characters.
Netflix said it will work with Dr. Smith to release similar reports every two years through 2026, and will commission similar studios in other countries.