Two GLAAD studies released on Wednesday found that internet and cable programs have more LGBT representation than broadcast networks.
GLAAD’s Where We Are on TV report, which looks at the 2014–2015 season, counted 64 LGBT regulars on prime time cable TV programs, 22 more than the previous season. The number of recurring characters also climbed from 24 to 41. HBO leads the pack, with 15 regular or recurring LGB characters, while Showtime and ABC Family feature 13 each. The report also found that ABC Family’s The Fosters boasts the one regular or recurring transgender character on cable.
According to GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, “Television networks are playing a key role in promoting cultural understanding of LGBT lives around the world, and are now producing some of the best LGBT-inclusive programming we’ve yet seen. As they move forward with new programs and storylines, networks must also keep an eye towards diversity and strive to include significant transgender content comparable to those efforts being made by their online competitors, such as Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and Amazon’s Transparent.”
Streaming original series like those shows are indeed setting standards for other shows to follow. Orange Is the New Black has more LGBT characters than any other show on broadcast and cable TV. House of Cards and Hemlock Grove have several LGB characters. Hulu and Amazon are also LGBT-inclusive, with shows like East Los High and Transparent, respectively.
The Where We Are on TV report concluded that of 813 character regulars on broadcast networks in the 2014–2015 prime time TV season, 32 of them — 3.9 percent — are lesbian, gay, or bisexual. GLAAD pointed to Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Glee on Fox, which has more LGB characters than its network counterparts. ABC, with shows like Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away With Murder, dropped from 5.4 percent to 4.5 percent, but boasts more LGB characters than NBC and CBS, which have 3.8 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively. The study determined that the CW does not feature lesbian, gay, or bisexual characters, although recurring ones will be introduced this season.
Several LGBT characters on both new (Empire, Gotham, Red Band Society, One Big Happy, Undateable) and old shows (The Mindy Project) will be introduced this season.
GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index, which grades shows from the previous season, gave HBO, MTV, and ABC Family “Excellent” marks for LGBT inclusion. The 2013–2014 season was the first to have 3 separate networks receive the highest grade possible. “Good” grades were awarded to ABC, The CW, FOX, NBC, FX, and Showtime, while A&E;, History, and TNT were dubbed failures.