Nielsen TV ratings introduces new tool that will measure on-screen diversity

The Nielsen television ratings have introduced a new tool it will use to gauge whether persons of color are represented on screen in proportion to their percentage of the U.S. population.

The firm unveiled Gracenote Inclusion Analytics following a December study which purportedly found persons of color were not being adequately depicted on television, The Hollywood Reporter noted.

Nielsen says the tool is designed to give content creators, advertisers, and distributors “proprietary metrics, including an identity group’s share of screentime relative to their real-life representation in the population,” the outlet reported.

The objective is to give producers of content and advertisers the ability to quantify their progress in diversifying the small screen,” THR added.

The tool will measure the amount of screen time depicting certain identity groups such as those with specific genders, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Measurements include “Share of Screen,” “Inclusion Opportunity Index,” and “Inclusion Audience Index.” 

“Audiences today actively seek out programs that highlight people who resemble them and experiences that reflect their own,” said Nielsen’s head of analytics, Tina Wilson, said in a statement to THR. 

“Together, Nielsen and Gracenote are uniquely positioned to help the industry seize upon this opportunity by way of new data analytics solutions ensuring meaningful connections between content and audiences,” she added.

The entertainment industry has a massive challenge ahead—to ensure the talent associated with popular TV programming mirrors today’s increasingly diverse viewing audiences,” said Nielsen senior vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion Sandra Sims-Williams, in a statement. 

“By democratizing information around representation in content, Gracenote Inclusion Analytics holds the power to push the industry toward better balance and a more equitable future,” Sims-Williams noted further.

Distributors will be able to use Gracenote Inclusion Analytics data to promote content within their catalogs that, for instance, feature diverse leading females during Women’s History Month. Also, studios will be able to determine whether content being produce meets certain Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) goals. Advertisers will also be able to use the tool’s data to “target the most inclusive content to inform” investments “or product placement decisions,” said a company press release published via PRNewswire.

In its December study, Nielsen reported that women comprise 52 percent of the U.S. population but just 38 percent of leading recurring cast members in the most popular network, cable, and streaming content. 

Meanwhile, people of color make up some 40 percent of the population while only comprising 27 percent in top television roles. 

The tool will provide “unprecedented visibility into the gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation of talent appearing in TV programming and the audiences watching it,” giving “content creators, owners, distributors and advertisers with much-needed data around on-screen diversity and representation to enable more inclusive content,” Nielsen said. 

Victoria Mahoney, a black director who has worked on shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Queen Sugar,” and “Survivor’s Remorse,” believes the entertainment industry needs to diversify even further.

“Certain people in the industry believe things have changed and everything’s fine,” she told Time in 2016.

“I’m hitting the pavement now,” she added. “I can’t be mad or preoccupied. I’m going to bash down doors and beg people to meet with me.”

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Jon Dougherty

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