Starz's makes diversity the rule for its shows -- and that makes for good business
16:01

Starz's makes diversity the rule for its shows -- and that makes for good business

Digital Media
Speaker 1: Hollywood doesn't have the best track record of on-screen diversity and the stats are even worse when you look at the number of women and people of color in charge behind the camera, but premium cable network stars began noticing that when it emphasized programming about women and people of color created by women and people of color, it didn't just lead better storytelling. It seemed to be better for business too. So now what I'm joined by [00:00:30] Allie Hoffman, president of star domestic networks, to explain the companies take the lead initiative, which double down on a strategy of storytelling by about, and for underrepresented audiences, including women and people of color. Thank you Allie, for joining us. Speaker 2: Thank you so much for having me. Speaker 3: So before take the lead became a defined strategy and a hashtag, how did these initiatives begin at stars? Speaker 2: Yeah, it began for us many years ago. Um, we were entering [00:01:00] the, you know, premium program and we were really looking to differentiate ourselves. Um, and as we were looking at what everybody else was doing, we really tried to find fresh voices, try to work with people that, um, others weren't sort of catching onto. Um, and that prompted, uh, the show's power Outlander and the white princess, um, which were hugely successful in what we saw that is that they were really successful with wo with women, women were driving the success of those audience, uh, of those shows. [00:01:30] So, um, with that success, we really doubled down and we started to really purposefully, um, look to, um, program for women in underrepresented audiences. Um, we green much shows like Vita from Tanya Saracho, um, P valley, which is a recent hit that we had in the past year from Cator hall. Um, Hightown from Rebecca cutter, um, and really just began, uh, focusing on women in underrepresented audiences and putting women in people of color, in charge of those shows. [00:02:00] Um, and it's really been sort of the marker of a, of the success that we've been having recently. Speaker 3: Did you have any aha moments in those early stages as Outlander as power, um, white queen were coming out? Did you have either about audience reception or about putting the people represented on screen behind the camera? Did you have any aha moments that, that spoke to you that you were really something? I Speaker 2: Remember the white queen airing, and I remember, um, looking at the Nielsen ratings and seeing [00:02:30] that women were driving the success of the white queen. And that was just not something that we saw on premium pro on premium television. So that was really new. Um, I also remember, um, power started, uh, I think it was like 20 14, 20 15. And I remember, um, it opened to a pretty dual audience, but as it gained momentum and it grew episode to episode and season to season, it was black women driving the success of power. And I, I remember thinking, [00:03:00] okay, here we go. Again, same theme women are driving the success of these shows. So, you know, I think, I think there were those aha moments where, you know, we, we think that this could be the appeal, but then you see the data represent back exactly what you're trying to do. And you, you sort of start to build. And like I said, become more purpose school with your strategy because it's working Speaker 3: At some point, uh, as you made this a purposeful strategy, you've pursued a few academic studies. Um, I think the first one turned the [00:03:30] lens back on stars itself and examined how diverse are your actors, your creators and your executives? I think some of the stats that came out of the were 63% of C series leads being people of color, 55% of show runners, people that run series being female and 75% of your executive team is women. Half of which are women of color. Were you surprised about anything in these findings when you looked back, you know, when you turned the mirror on yourself? Um, yeah. Was anything surprising and did it expose any areas where you need to pay [00:04:00] attention to? Speaker 2: Yeah, no, I, I don't think it was surprising. I think we, we knew that this was part of our brand identity. It was really important to us. Um, it was validating and, you know, as you mentioned, it was a way to hold ourselves accountable. Um, you know, we sort of had a feeling that this was something that we were doing well on, but we, but we really needed to take a look and take a hard look at all areas. So, you know, as you mentioned, show running, you know, serious leads writing, directing, um, we, we wanted [00:04:30] to make sure we were holding up that mirror and holding ourselves accountable, looking at the industry averages. Um, and some of those, you know, the ones that you mentioned, the statistics that you mentioned, um, you know, we are above the industry average and we feel like we're in a place that, you know, we're ha we're happy with and wanna continue. Speaker 2: Um, it's sort of like if we can stay on this path, we are in a good place. I think one of the places that we thought we could do better was directing. Um, I think, you know, we looked at women directors, it was under 50% and we thought, w we would've [00:05:00] thought we were better than that are doing better than that. So, um, that, uh, launched a partnership with AWD, the Alliance of women directors. And so we put into place a program where we're really sort of starting to move that, um, further along really focus on putting women, um, in directing positions, getting them episodic, directing gig. So nothing, you know, too academic, something that really turns into paid work, um, was important to us. Um, so again, still, still a good statistic, [00:05:30] but, um, I, I think there was a little bit of, we, we thought we would be higher, um, than this study came back. And I think that's the value of, of doing this research is sometimes your perception is right on, and that was the case with a lot of it. And sometimes you're a little bit off. And you wanna, do you wanna correct. And correct course, Speaker 3: What have you found works? Well, you know, this, this sort of mentoring, um, directorship element, I know there's a lot of facets to how you're pursuing this, take the lead initiative. What have [00:06:00] you found works well? And were there things that you tried that you realized were not successful? Speaker 2: I think one of the things that we started to do early on is, you know, everybody was sort of getting involved in shadowing programs for women shadowing programs for people of color, um, very early on, we made sure those were paid initiatives, that those were sort of paid, uh, roles that, that people were getting. So I think, you know, really kind of putting your money where your mouth is, is really important when you're doing, you know, trying, trying to be a change agent. Um, I think the other thing is [00:06:30] this is a very word of mouth industry. So, um, people get jobs because they have good experiences with, within sort of the community and they have a group of people that can recommend them for their next job. Um, so one of the other things that we did is, you know, we are, we take our creative relationships very, very seriously. Speaker 2: Um, we think that they are the key to our success, and whenever we're putting somebody new into position, you know, a, a woman into a first time directing role or a, a person of color, we wanna make sure we have that showrunner support. Um, [00:07:00] we're never gonna sort of force fit anything. This is sort of a group effort. So if there's showrunner support support from the cast and crew of the people that are being put into place, it's more likely to go well and more likely toge more assignments and more opportunities. And that's what we're, we're really focused on. Speaker 3: Kinda take us through the timeline of these initiatives. You've already talked about the early days, and we talked a little bit about where stars got to at a certain point when you commissioned the study. Yeah. How has the initiative, [00:07:30] and how has the response, how has the whole project campaign grown over time? Speaker 2: I think we feel it's sort of snapping together for us. I think, you know, what we, the, the goal of stars is to build our brand, you know, on fresh voices, voices that people haven't, you know, seen or heard before. Um, we feel like being different is the key to our success and doing things differently is the key to our success. And that's what we will continue to do is continue on that path. Take the lead [00:08:00] is really in service of that brand mission of, you know, as you said, narratives by for, and about women and underrepresented audiences, the take the lead initiative has really helped people solidify. What is stars? What is stars programming? What can I hope to find when I go to stars? Um, and you know, that maybe kicks off you, you mentioned our second study, we did a second study with UCLA, which is, we know we're doing this. Speaker 2: We think it's important. We've seen the success with our business, but if [00:08:30] we talk to consumers at large, do they say that diversity in front and behind the camera is important? And that was important for us to, uh, field that was important for us to feel because we want people to feel what we feel. Um, we wanna make sure that that demand is really out there. And, um, and the research was there that said, you know, viewers are actively looking for diversity on camera. Viewers do care about who is making these shows, who is working behind the scenes to make [00:09:00] these shows. Um, and so I think that, that, that is the piece that I think, you know, releasing that study is the piece that we hope lifts everybody up where people say, okay, this is both a really good thing to do. It opens the aperture for the industry. Um, but it also opens opportunities for probably great voices that haven't found a home yet, um, in terms of sort of a network to, to air their stories. Speaker 3: Um, the very [00:09:30] fact that you've called this initiative take the lead. That is you want, you're hoping that you want others to follow the example. Um, if, if the amplification of diversity at stars is something that is a defining characteristic that sets you apart, best case scenario people follow your lead. Do you consider what it means in perfect world where representation, maybe isn't solved, but is certainly more robust elsewhere? Does that become less of a defining feature when representation becomes [00:10:00] more of a status quo? Do you think about that? Speaker 2: I think we think that would be a great problem to have, I think if, if that were the case, if, if, you know, we saw, we saw great representation, like, like the statistics that we see, like, you know, um, the shows that we're putting into place in the audience that are coming to, um, to stars to view our content, if that were happening more broadly, I think we would feel really good that maybe we were part of the spark that, that helped that happen. Um, one [00:10:30] of the things from the second study that second UCLA study that I wanna mention is that the, the last piece people is, um, seeing diversity in front of the camera helps me feel more empathetic to, you know, different people, people that are different than myself. Um, and I think that that purpose driven, you know, sort of mission for stars and for stars, employees is really important. And I think that that also helps lift up the industry [00:11:00] as well as is, you know, you're not telling the same story again and again, um, based on the same kind of person you're telling different stories, you're building empathy, um, through something that is entertainment, um, that gets really exciting. And I think that's something that we would be really proud to be a part of. If everybody started to sort of show the, the kind of stats that that stars is showing. Well, Speaker 3: Talk a little bit about the stats, you know, being a, a purpose driven, having a purpose driven mission at the company is one element of it. But certainly, you [00:11:30] know, you have to, that mission has to be delivering on objectives that you're trying to hit. What are some of the stats that you're, you've seen and are seeing that show that what you're doing is good Speaker 2: Business? Yeah, no, for sure. So we look, we're a very data driven company and we look at statistics every morning. We open up a bunch of reports. Um, it's, it's really interesting every morning, really it's women driving viewership of our content. Um, women are driving acquisitions. So they're [00:12:00] the ones sort of pulling the purse strings at home and making decisions in terms of adding stars. Um, and so the more that we lean into that, the more success that we, we have had, um, other piece of our strategy, and you'll see this play out this year is, um, we are ramping up our programming slate, so we're going to have more shows than ever. Um, and so one of the statistics that we focus on a lot is retention in a subscriber business. So it's not just about pulling people in, but how [00:12:30] long do you keep them and sort of how, how much value do they find in your service? Speaker 2: And so really we're going to have this strategy for the first time, this year of really having back to back programming for our key cohorts. And so that is a really good business pro proposition for, for our company. I think the other thing in terms of our business strategy is, um, you know, we are a premium network premium has always been sold on top of basic, uh, television, whether that's in a traditional [00:13:00] way or in sort of the new world with, um, what we term digital affiliates like Amazon and Hulu and apple TV plus who we partner with. Um, and so, you know, by, by having a slightly different offering by not competing directly with those service on a programming basis and from a viewership perspective, we're highly complimentary. And we think it, it helps to form a really good business partnership, but between, um, those sort of basic streaming services that are trying to replace, um, cable television, um, [00:13:30] and, and ourselves, so that the, you know, the viewer is really getting the complete package. If they sign on, for instance, to Amazon prime video plus stars, Speaker 3: We know where you've come from and how you've gotten to where you are now, where do you want things to go? You've got this back to back programming sort of cadence that you're going to be entering into. How do you hope that that plays out? And what do you see beyond that? Speaker 2: Yeah, I mean, we have really aggressive growth targets. We think that we're going to grow [00:14:00] globally, really doubling our subscriber levels over the next few years globally Speaker 3: During the pandemic, did the circumstances of producing programming and running a network and reaching audiences in that state of the world. Did that make a difference towards these efforts for more inclusivity and more representation, or did it, was it really kind of no net effect on it? I think Speaker 2: What we saw during the pandemic was, um, people discovering stars, people [00:14:30] discovering our service, um, people finding great value, and yes, I think people as they sort of, um, watching more, had more available time to find different programming, um, discovering our shows. So I think that, you know, what we saw is people going deeper into our library, um, you know, finding different shows and, and cross viewing different shows than what we'd seen before. Um, watching obviously sort of our library content in, in deeper ways. [00:15:00] Um, but yeah, we, we sort of characterize the last year as a great year of discovery of both the brand and then within the brand, the real value that we have, the deeply library that we have in our service. Speaker 3: If you can give one recommendation, if people don't already have an idea of what stars is about in terms of taking the lead, what would you recommend people go watch as soon as they are done Speaker 2: Watching this interview? Yeah, so obviously I could recommend almost our entire [00:15:30] slate, um, but I will pick our most recent premier, um, a show called blind spotting, which is a 30 minute comedy series that is, um, doing really well. It has great diversity in front of the camera. Um, diversity behind the camera. It's just a great Testament to take the lead. Speaker 3: Thanks Allie, for joining us. If you wanna learn more, check out cnet.com.

Up Next

Bitcoin consumes more energy than many countries
nowwhat-cryptoenvironmentfinal2

Up Next

Bitcoin consumes more energy than many countries

That time Michael Dell almost had his PC company taken away
dellthumb

That time Michael Dell almost had his PC company taken away

A commercial space industry is on the horizon
nwaerospace

A commercial space industry is on the horizon

Is there such a thing as dirty solar?
solarthumb

Is there such a thing as dirty solar?

Why 'made in America' is a slippery concept
abrar-sherr

Why 'made in America' is a slippery concept

Business travelers as we knew them may be done. Now what?
nw-scott-hornick

Business travelers as we knew them may be done. Now what?

Have 5G networks underwhelmed you so far?
rogerthumb

Have 5G networks underwhelmed you so far?

A look at what's replacing the DSLR. Hint: It's (mostly) not a phone
shankland

A look at what's replacing the DSLR. Hint: It's (mostly) not a phone

Why your smart home is still dumb, and what Matter is doing about that
tobinthumb

Why your smart home is still dumb, and what Matter is doing about that

Tech Shows

The Apple Core
apple-core-w

The Apple Core

Alphabet City
alphabet-city-w

Alphabet City

CNET Top 5
cnet-top-5-w

CNET Top 5

The Daily Charge
dc-site-1color-logo.png

The Daily Charge

What the Future
what-the-future-w

What the Future

Tech Today
tech-today-w

Tech Today

Latest News All latest news

Fun Amazon Finds Under $150 for October 2022
amazonmusthavesoct-24fps-00-07-57-17-still001

Fun Amazon Finds Under $150 for October 2022

Elon Musk Wants to Sell You an Optimus Robot for Less Than the Price of a Tesla
optimus-for-cms-1

Elon Musk Wants to Sell You an Optimus Robot for Less Than the Price of a Tesla

Tesla AI Day 2022: The Biggest Announcements
supercutcnet

Tesla AI Day 2022: The Biggest Announcements

Watch Elon Musk Unveil Optimus Robot Prototype
teslarobot

Watch Elon Musk Unveil Optimus Robot Prototype

How Apple Could Bring Back the iPhone Mini
220922-yt-apple-stuff-ep-13-iphone-mini-isnt-dead-3

How Apple Could Bring Back the iPhone Mini

Fitbit Sense 2 First Look: New Software Makes a Difference
fitbit-aroll-00-00-46-14-still001

Fitbit Sense 2 First Look: New Software Makes a Difference

Most Popular All most popular

Watch Elon Musk Unveil Optimus Robot Prototype
teslarobot

Watch Elon Musk Unveil Optimus Robot Prototype

See NASA's DART Probe Make Impact With Asteroid Dimorphos
astroid-image-cms

See NASA's DART Probe Make Impact With Asteroid Dimorphos

DART Explained: First Asteroid Crash Images
dart-crash

DART Explained: First Asteroid Crash Images

Tesla AI Day 2022: The Biggest Announcements
supercutcnet

Tesla AI Day 2022: The Biggest Announcements

How Apple Could Bring Back the iPhone Mini
220922-yt-apple-stuff-ep-13-iphone-mini-isnt-dead-3

How Apple Could Bring Back the iPhone Mini

Elon Musk Wants to Sell You an Optimus Robot for Less Than the Price of a Tesla
optimus-for-cms-1

Elon Musk Wants to Sell You an Optimus Robot for Less Than the Price of a Tesla

Latest Products All latest products

Fitbit Sense 2 First Look: New Software Makes a Difference
fitbit-aroll-00-00-46-14-still001

Fitbit Sense 2 First Look: New Software Makes a Difference

GoPro Hero 11 Black Hands-on: Super-sized Sensor for All Your Socials
gopro1

GoPro Hero 11 Black Hands-on: Super-sized Sensor for All Your Socials

I Tried Out Sony's Upcoming VR Headset on the PlayStation 5
psvr2

I Tried Out Sony's Upcoming VR Headset on the PlayStation 5

Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE: First Look
watch8-sepic

Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch SE: First Look

Bose QuietComfort EarBuds 2: Better design, better performance
bose-quietcomforst-ii

Bose QuietComfort EarBuds 2: Better design, better performance

Galaxy Z Flip 4 Review: A Diminutive but Fun Upgrade
flip4

Galaxy Z Flip 4 Review: A Diminutive but Fun Upgrade

Latest How To All how to videos

How to Clean Your Keyboard's Sticky Keys
3keyboards

How to Clean Your Keyboard's Sticky Keys

How to Play Games from PlayStation Plus on PC
psstill

How to Play Games from PlayStation Plus on PC

How to Delete or Disable Your Instagram Account
phoneonorange

How to Delete or Disable Your Instagram Account

Fix Your iPhone Screen With Apple's Self-Service Repair Kit
dsc00641

Fix Your iPhone Screen With Apple's Self-Service Repair Kit

How to Buy a Budget Laptop in 2022
budgetlaptops-00-08-35-15-still001

How to Buy a Budget Laptop in 2022

Google Pay: How to Set Up and Use
googlepay-inhand

Google Pay: How to Set Up and Use