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Streaming services have more LGBT characters than all traditional TV channels put together

Michelle O'Toole November 2, 2015

Streaming media providers Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime feature more LGBT series regulars than all of US network TV put together.

The news comes from the latest GLAAD ‘Where We Are On TV’ report.

The report found that the streaming services had more LGBT representation across just 23 series, than American primetime network television has on 118.

American network television featured 35 LGB series regulars out of 881 characters, which is an increase of three since last year – but features no transgender characters on any of the 118 primetime scripted shows studied.

Meanwhile, cable services including HBO, AMC and Starz fared better, with an increase from 64 LGBT series regulars to 84.

But online services Netflix, Hulu and Amazon trounced network television’s primetime representation with 43 regular LGBT characters spread across just 23 series, including shows like Orange is the New Black, Grace and Frankie, Sense8, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Transparent.

The news marks the first time GLAAD has included streaming services content in their annual report – and proves an argument long made by proponents of online streaming.

Jill Soloway, creator of Amazon’s award-winning trans themed Transparent has long praised streaming services, explaining to Ms Magazine: “all these new channels of distribution are especially freeing to storytellers outside the straight white cis male paradigm.”

Doctor Who star Freema Agyeman – who is currently portraying a lesbian writer in a relationship with a trans woman on Netflix’s Sense8 – has also praised streaming.

She explained previously: “I feel so honoured and proud to tell a story that people feel is truly representative of them in an area that’s so lacking in television.

“Netflix is out there dancing to its own drumbeat. I can feel a momentum shift. TV is becoming so much more complex than it once was.”

However, GLAAD also pointed out that 73% of the characters on streaming services were white, significantly higher than network TV and cable, calling for greater representation of people of colour on the services.

Also, women are still under-represented on network television according to the report, even though the number of prominent female characters has increased by 3%. Women now make up 43% of characters on primetime broadcast television in spite of the fact that America’s population is 51% female.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, has hailed the new figures as “tremendous progress” but noted that “LGBT people of color have remained underrepresented for years, and transgender men have been all but invisible in the media.

“… there is still a great deal of work to be done and many new and exciting stories to be told. We will continue to applaud networks and streaming services telling these stories – and hold their feet to the fire when they don’t.”

More: Amazon, Amazon Prime, GLAAD, glaad TV Report, Hulu, netflix, orange is the new black, The Fall, the unbreakable kimmy schmidt, Transparent, US

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