Though HGTV has made efforts to diversify the network’s lineup of hosts in recent years and promoted the network as a beacon of inclusivity, an eye-opening new report says the network and its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, have an “abysmal” track record when it comes to Latino representation on- and off-camera. The probe into primetime TV reveals the “invisibility” of Latinos on traditional cable networks, with HGTV as the worst offender.
HGTV Literally Has Zero Latino Representation, Report Says
In late September 2022, the Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC), a nonprofit backed by some of the most prominent Latinx business leaders in the U.S., released the results of its 2022 LDC Latinos in Media Report. The group combed through every film and primetime TV premiere during the first eight months of 2022 and discovered that less than 3% of the hundreds of TV shows reviewed featured Latino talent, producers, or film crews.
Furthermore, the 3% of programs with Latino representation often used talent to magnify stereotypes, hiring them only for helper roles such as gardeners or housekeepers, according to LDC President Ana Valdez.
While representation for Latinos is embarrassingly low across the board, Valdez told Heavy that HGTV is guilty of total “invisibility” when it comes to Latino representation. According to the LDC investigation, 37 prime-time shows premiered or returned on HGTV between January 1 and August 31, 2022. That added up to 370 new TV episodes that aired on the network during that time — more than any other traditional cable network — yet there were zero Latino on-air leads or co-leads and zero Latino showrunners or directors.
“Why would programmers not include them and miss out on engaging them for their channels and advertisers?” Valdez asked, noting that, according to The Urban Institute, between 2020 and 2040, 70% of new homeowners will be Hispanic.
“If Latinos are the largest cohort of new home buyers, they are the most natural cohort to watch a show on HGTV,” she said.
Approximately 20% of Americans are Hispanic, according to Pew Research. The U.S. population grew by 23.1 million from 2010 to 2021, and Hispanics accounted for 52% of this increase. Contrary to popular belief, the increase is attributed more to new births in the U.S. than to new immigration.
HGTV Accused of Ignoring Calls for Cultivating More Diverse Lineup
HGTV has made strides in recent years to expand and promote the number of Black hosts on the network, producing a 60-second promo in 2022 for Black History Month with personalities including couple Egypt Sherrod and Mike Jackson, Page Turner and Mika Kleinschmidt discussing the importance of representation on the network for people of color.
In the video, Turner says, “This is part of history where you see a network say, ‘This is our standard, this is our platform, this is who we are, and ‘we’ is inclusive of everybody.'”
While advocates applaud any steps made to include and promote more people of color on HGTV, the glaring problem is that those efforts actually are not inclusive of everyone, according to Valdez, and that network executives don’t seem concerned about it.
“HGTV is aware of its lack of Latino representation, as is Discovery, the parent company,” she told Heavy. “However, after various meetings in February 2022, we are still waiting for a response and to see an intentional effort that incorporates U.S Latinos into their main strategy, in front and behind the camera.”
In June 2021, former HGTV executive Denise Conroy wrote a scathing essay published on LinkedIn about her experience trying to push for more diversity on the network. She wrote that it seemed little has changed since she served as senior vice president of marketing, creative, and research from 2011 to 2014, during which they “received constant feedback on our lack of commitment to cultivating diverse talent.”
“The response behind closed doors was that diverse talent is hard to find,” she wrote. “Diverse voices are only hard to find when you’re not looking.”
The network has occasionally featured Latino voices in its programming. Designer Sabrina Soto, whose parents are Cuban, appeared on two series in the last decade and is still included on HGTV’s web site, but has not had her own show on the network in years.
In June 2022, HGTV did announce that it had ordered an eight-episode series featuring Colorado real estate broker and restoration expert Rico León, whose LinkedIn profile says he’s a “Puerto Rican raised in Pittsburgh.” The show, tentatively titled “Rico to the Rescue” is slated to air in early 2023.
While that sounds like a step in the right direction, Valdez maintains much more needs to be done, not only to create responsible representation but also for television to remain a viable, profitable medium.
“If channels like HGTV ignore 20 to 30% of the advertisers’ customers, they will not be able to deliver the demographics needed to increase sales,” she said. “This is money being left on the table for HGTV shareholders.”
HGTV did not respond to Heavy’s request for comment.