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A research study analyses diversity in on-demand video platforms


A research project at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) analyses diversity in the audiovisual industry based on the presence of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) operators in Spain. One of the lines of interest focuses on examining the diversity of content offered by audiovisual platforms.

Una investigación analiza la diversidad en las plataformas de vídeo bajo demanda

To do so, nearly 200 audiovisual works have been analysed, taking into account three parameters: place diversity, gender diversity and ethnic-racial diversity. This study is being carried out by UC3M’s Audiovisual Diversity research group as part of the project named “Diversity and on-demand subscription audiovisual services”, with a duration of four years and which is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. Luis A. Albornoz and Mª Trinidad García Leiva, from the Department of Communication, are the lead researchers of the project.

The article “Cultural glocalisation in the age of on-demand video” focused on studying content of three SVOD platforms based in the US and with subsidiaries in a large number of countries: Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime Video. The main objective was to review a selection of audiovisual works broadcast between 2020 and 2021 to observe to what extent these productions are representative of cultural diversity.

“What we aim to do with this research is to recognise the catalogue through the technique of mapping or cartography. For a time, the idea of on-demand video was justified as a promise of unlimited catalogues where we could access all audiovisual material. We are now perhaps more aware that this was hyperbole and, in a way, an advertising strategy. This paper has analysed the new on-demand video industry from the perspective of diversity. What this article proposes is an analysis of content diversity, that is, what type of content is offered”, says Josep Pedro, lecturer in the UC3M Department of Communication and researcher in this study.

To do this, three categories have been established. The first of these is place diversity, which quantifies the works according to country of production. The second category is gender diversity, which includes works that have discourses related to feminism, empowerment, the discovery of sexuality, contemporary affective-sexual relationships and/or different types of masculinities. The final category is ethnic-racial diversity, which establishes productions that have representations of non-white ethnic-racial identities. “These categories are not exclusive because we can potentially recognise a work that is representative of place diversity, gender diversity and racial diversity at the same time”, says the researcher.

Four criteria were set to select the works for the study: they are categorised as original productions; they relate to place and gender diversity and ethnic-racial identity in terms of production, theme, narrative, characters or cast; they have been successful for the critic, the public or in terms of advertising campaigns; and they have aroused media or social coverage or controversy.

The results of this study indicate that 47% of the productions analysed fall into the category of place diversity. Likewise, 34% are categorised as gender diversity. Titles identifying with the ethnic-racial diversity category were less than 20%.

At the company level, the findings point to Netflix as the platform with the most works within these three categories, with place diversity containing the most. This is followed by Amazon Prime Video and, in last place, HBO.

"According to the results, Netflix emerges as the SVOD whose catalogue most closely fits the content diversity categories tracked. While one of the keys to Netflix's success lies in its ability to engage with different regional cultures through its 'originals', HBO and Amazon Prime Video's 'originals' illustrate a greater hegemony of the US and the UK, which remains the main player in the European film and TV audiovisual industry", Josep Pedro concludes. 

Bibliographic reference: Pedro, J. (2022). Cultural glocalisation in in the age of on-demand video. Content diversity on Netflix, HBO and Prime Video. Visual Review. International Visual Culture Review, vol. 9, 1–13.

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