Diversity Month continues throughout the month of April, and as previously explained, diversity is one of the main pillars of the cable industry. Cable TV networks pride themselves on lifting the voices of people of color, women, and underrepresented populations on the screen and off, and on building the next generation of diverse content creators.
Industry-wide initiatives aim to encourage and fund professional development programs and pipelines for women and men of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, and cultures and to foster a more inclusive America. And on their own, cable tv networks host a range of programs geared towards hiring and advancing underrepresented people, and on nurturing an appreciation of diversity in their workplace environments.
In the spirit of celebrating Diversity Month and continuing to advocate for progress, here is a snapshot of the diversity and inclusion efforts among the cable programmer community as the industry continues its work towards affording leadership and advancement opportunities for people who have traditionally been overlooked in the past, and to sharing their talent and stories on and behind the screen.
Earlier this year, AMC Networks announced a new division, "Avenue," designed to help advertising and marketing partners authentically reach diverse and underrepresented audience. "Our shows reach and appeal to a wide range of viewers, and ‘Avenue’ is a path for our advertising partners to authentically connect with diverse and underrepresented viewers through our programming, talent and platforms,” said Kim Kelleher, president of commercial revenue and partnerships for AMC Networks. “Connecting with, recognizing, celebrating and elevating these diverse audiences and communities is a focal point of so many of our conversations with partners today, we built ‘Avenue’ to maximize our partners’ impact as these conversations and our collective commitment and progress around representation and inclusion continue to expand."
Over the past couple of years, AMC Networks has expanded their diversity and inclusion focuses through the launch of an internal Mentorship Collective program to match underrepresented writers with industry leaders, the expansion of its Employee Resource Groups, and partnerships with Endeaver Content and Color of Change to increase diverse representation on production sets, and collaborated on a job matching platform, Coding for Inclusion, to help move the needle on how hiring happens in Hollywood.
Last year, Disney announced the Disney United Negro College Fund Corporate Scholars program, a new $1 million commitment in which the network will support 50 scholars over three years with a scholarship, summer internship, and mentorship. This is in addition to the other relationships the network holds with scholarship organizations that support the pipeline of underrepresented communities such as the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholars, American Indian College Fund, and Point Foundation.
And to build the next generation of storytellers with diverse backgrounds, one example of the plethora of initiatives that Disney has implemented over the years includes the Africa Story Lab. This is a program that provides on-set apprenticeships for budding content creators across the African continent. The program also features African children telling their stories on camera on Disney Junior and Disney+.
NBCU Launch, which is NBCUniversal's division that leads diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the company, came out with a new partnership last year with Telemundo to increase the number of Hispanic female directors—a severely underrepresented community when it comes to directing—in scripted television. NBCU Launch already houses the Female Forward initiative, which has provided female directors the opportunity to break into episodic television over the last four years, and the NBCU Launch TV Directors Program, geared towards ethnically diverse male and nonbinary directors. The goal with the extension of the initiative is to give Latinas the same directing opportunities through Telemundo.
“Our shared objectives with Telemundo give us a unique opportunity to place an even greater focus on Hispanic female directors. This evolution of our groundbreaking Female Forward initiative is just the beginning of our efforts to grow this underrepresented community while we also continue to focus on other marginalized groups who still desperately need opportunities in the director’s chair," said Jeanne Mau, Senior Vice President, TV Programming Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at NBCUniversal.
In 2021, Paramount (formerly ViacomCBS) expanded its work with Historically Black Colleges and Universities through its new internship, scholarship, and mentorship programs for BIPOC and female talent. The company also established new Inclusivity Councils to promote belonging and advancement, as well as a the new global, cross-brand initiative, "Content for Change," which aims to break down systemic racism narratives by leveraging content from the network's ecosystem. In partnership with Reel Works, a Brooklyn-based youth media organization, the network set up the Content for Change Academy to give young talent who have traditionally been excluded or underrepresented in the entertainment industry the opportunity to get their foot in the door.
Another move the network made last year was the implementation of their "No Diversity, No Commission" content policy across its international properties. The policy requires production partners to meet the network's diversity and inclusion guidelines prior to getting the final sign-off from the company.
Warner Bros. Discovery
Warner Bros. Discovery has shown its commitment to diversity and inclusion in a variety of ways, including its wide range of Employee Resource Groups, which began at Discovery long prior to the merger. These resource groups provide employees from underrepresented backgrounds an abundance of leadership and professional development opportunities, and encourage appreciation of the diverse range of backgrounds and cultures across the company. These groups are for people of color, women, those who identify as part of the LGBTQIA community, veterans, working parents and caregivers, and for people with disabilities, both seen and unseen. The groups aim to be a safe space for employees from underrepresented populations to exchange ideas, resources and experiences, be afforded career advancement opportunities internally and externally, and to empower one another and nurture respect for people of all backgrounds.
In the past year, even prior to the merger, WarnerMedia launched two equity and inclusion initiatives focused on providing opportunities for people of color to move up the executive ranks. WarnerMedia Fellows is a program for senior vice presidents who self-identify as Asian, Latino, Black or multiracial that offers networking experiences for participants with other leaders within and outside WarnerMedia. Fellows also receive additional financial and business training. The other initiative that kicked off last year offers career advancement and executive coaching through the nonprofit DEI consultancy Management Leadership for Tomorrow.
"Research shows that companies need to take equity into account rather than focusing on equal opportunity, quotas and short-term fixes," said MyKhanh Shelton, WarnerMedia Senior Vice President, Equity and Inclusion, in a press statement. "The lasting change we want to drive requires a systems-based approach and real courage from our leadership to be intentional about supporting executives of color on their career trajectory."