Analysis: Women take lead roles in US network dramas

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Analysis of US broadcast network dramas in development or production has revealed that 42 per cent feature a strong female lead – more than double that of programmes with a male lead (20 per cent).

According to Ampere Analysis, the existence of a strong female character is a winning factor when choosing new drama content for the US networks.

Recently commissioned female-led dramas include ABC’s Trailblazer and Reef Break, CBS’s Melanie and Under the Bridge, Fox’s Remedy, Sisters and 100 Days without Fear, NBC’s Trust, Strong Justice and The Enemy Within, and The CW’s Dorian, Lean on Me and Lifeboat Clique.

Ampere Analysis’s Commissioning Analytics database tracks 251 US broadcast network dramas in development or production. Although the US broadcast network dramas frequently focus on a female audience, there is an unusually strong focus in their forward commissioning for female leads.

The facts:
– Of 251 upcoming US Network dramas analysed, the majority have female leads: 42 per cent feature a single female lead, versus 20 per cent with a single male lead
– A further 5 per cent feature an equally weighted male + female couple in the lead roles
– Not only are there more drama roles for women, but they are more diverse than those available for men
– Of the five broadcast networks, The CW and NBC have the strongest female bias in terms of the amount of female-led material and new scripted commissioning activity

The analysis focused on how to have success when pitching a TV project to a US network. It found that police dramas were most likely to be accepted, regardless of the gender of the lead. And while men are most likely to be cast as police, FBI or CIA officers, women on the other hand enjoy more diversity. Their roles span high-powered professions, from legal to law enforcement, medical to financial and media.

Guy Bisson, Director at Ampere Analysis says: “The content that is being commissioned by the US networks not only reveals the future direction of the industry, but it also tells us a lot about the age we’re living in. Female roles seem to more accurately reflect the socio-political direction of today’s society, while male roles are perhaps a reflection of the prevailing politics in the US. While the diversity of female drama roles is to be applauded, the flipside is that the lack of diversity in roles for men also presents an opportunity to the networks to try some new approaches to male characterisation.”


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