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Streaming Services Catering to the Female Audience with Female-Focused Series

Lauren Forristal

There’s been a lot of female-skewing programming on streaming services in the past couple of years and the numbers are only increasing. HBO Max, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ have all been contributing titles catered to the female audience, and as “Bridgerton” has made its return with a new season, can streamers expect more subscriber growth from the millions of younger adult women watching at home?

We’ll hit you guys with the facts first: Based on a 2021 study from The Center at San Diego State University women comprised 52% of major characters on streaming services but only 45% on broadcast series.

Inclusion for women occurs offscreen as well, with 30% of creators, 31% of directors, and 24% of editors working for streaming services, compared to networks where the percentages are 22%, 19%, and 15%, respectively.

So while we wait for broadcast to get with the program, let’s talk about how female-created shows compare to male ones. The Center’s executive director Martha Lauzen said in a statement, “Increasing the numbers of women creators is important because they fulfill a gatekeeping role for female characters on screen and women working behind the scenes.”

To that point, women represented 53% of major characters and 52% of writers on series created by at least one woman. Whereas shows created only by men had 46% women characters and 23% women writers.

And streaming only seems to get more inclusive as Netflix has been releasing innovative female-skewed programming in attempts to lure more young female subscribers.

With Season 2 of “Bridgerton” now available to stream, Diesel Labs looked at audience attention for the series, compared with the second seasons for other notable Netflix original series (“The Witcher,” “Emily in Paris,” “Ozark,” and “Stranger Things”) and the pre-premiere engagements for “Bridgerton” Season 2 outperformed those of the other series, and in some cases by 2.5x. Season 2 is also projected to surpass “Bridgerton” Season 1 pre-launch engagement by 4.3x.

When “Bridgerton” was first released in 2020, the period drama centered around a group of royal ladies brought a unique and content-obsessed audience to Netflix as it put a fresh perspective on historical romance. According to Diesel Labs, 33% of the “Bridgerton” audience was brand new to Netflix within the last year, while 44% re-engaged with Netflix after a months-long hiatus because of the show.

This “Bridgerton” audience had also engaged with unscripted reality shows (also catered towards young women) such as “The Bachelor,” and “The Real Housewives of Potomac.” Another favorite was the comedy-drama “Insecure.”

This paints a larger picture for Netflix, suggesting that this audience’s interests might be underserved on the platform. While the data doesn’t reflect the gender differences for “Bridgerton,” there are other data points to prove that Netflix has reached a primarily female audience, and they might not come from a show that you would initially guess.

Squid Game” significantly outpaced the buzz surrounding Season 1 of “Bridgerton” and its audience skews 56% female. It’s also clear that a large, younger cohort is driving much of the buzz being that 68% of the “Squid Game” engaged audience is under 24 years old.

In September 2021, Attest released their third annual U.S. Media Consumption Report which showed that Netflix was the most popular video streaming platform among young adults, with 86% of 18-to-24 using the service (compared to 69% for total adults). Ranking second, Disney+ was popular among 56% of Generation Z.

Diesel Labs also found that there were shows on HBO Max and Disney+ that specifically appealed to the young, female audience. HBO Max shows like “Genera+ion” and “Gossip Girl” both skew heavily female (56% and 65%, respectively) and young (61% under 24 years for both).

The “Squid Game” audience also liked Disney+ titles such as “Black Is King” (58% female, 48% under 24), “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” (65% female, 43% under 24), and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (59% female, 71% under 24).

Warner Bros.’ HBO Max improves its demographics year after year, according to CEO Jason Kilar who recently tweeted:

Just a few months after Kilar took the reins of WarnerMedia as CEO, he appointed Casey Bloys, HBO Max chief, as overseer of both HBO and HBO Max operations. One of the reasons this was done is because HBO needed to prove that it could aim its shows towards a demographic that they have struggled to attract in the past — young women.

In 2021, the streaming service finally began offering light dramas, young-adult series, and animation, in addition to its traditional prestige fare. Not surprisingly, that new programming became vital to the streamer’s success.

Half of the most in-demand shows among a younger, more female demographic are HBO Max originals such as “The Sex Lives of College Girls” and “And Just Like That…”. Other instant hit shows on the platform include “Euphoria,” “Mare of Easttown,” “Insecure,” “I May Destroy You,” “The Flight Attendant,” and “Gossip Girl,” which aren’t aimed at the “traditional” HBO audience, proving that the streamer can create a talked-about series with some girl power behind it.

With its new shows “The Gilded Age” (which had 1.6 million viewers during the finale), “Minx,” and “One Perfect Shot,” HBO Max could be what young females turn to when other services no longer suit their taste.

While there is still a lack of women being represented in TV and film, with only 23% of the most popular films in 11 countries last year featuring female protagonists, there are some changes happening slowly but surely.

With Disney+ releasing Marvel series “She-Hulk” and “Ms. Marvel” within the next year, Hulu’s success with “The Handmaid's Tales” and “Dollface,” Amazon Prime Video’s “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” along with STARZ’ recent hits like “Yellowjackets,” “Shining Vale,” and others — there are a ton of streaming services producing more titles designed for the female eye.

However, will this be enough to completely sway the young women demographic?


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