BUFFALO, N.Y. – “East Los High,” the
trailblazing, addictive and hugely popular Hulu original series,
uses a range of digital media platforms to involve its audience in
the lives, scandals and emotional traumas of Latino students
attending a fictional high school in East Los Angeles, California,
and communication experts say it works on both the entertainment
and educational levels.
The first season was streamed online in summer 2013; the second
season was premiered on July 9. Only a few days later, Hulu
announced their renewal of the show for a third season. As one
critic said, “Latin heat – East LA never looked so
It is the first-ever English language series with an all-Latino
cast to address issues in Latino communities in the United
States. Characters are complex and realistic, and through the
program they learn to make smart lifestyle and health choices,
especially in the area of sexual and reproductive health.
Hua (Helen) Wang, PhD, assistant professor of communication at
the University at Buffalo, and Arvind Singhal, PhD, professor of
communication at the University of Texas at El Paso, were engaged
by the producers to evaluate the impact of this phenomenal program,
and Wang says it is the opinion of the research team that
“East Los” certainly did what it set out to do.
In addition to excellent writing, acting and production values,
Wang says, the series has benefited from the fact that it deals
with real life conundrums, involves a talented Latino creative team
and has been involved from the outset with community groups that
deal with the problems experienced by the show’s
“The outcome indicates that the program sets the gold
standard for narrative complexity, creativity and the ability to
engage the Latino creative community in creating a show about
issues that matter to Latino youth,” Singhal says.
The conclusions drawn by Singhal and Wang are grounded in
evidence derived from tracking and analyzing data on visitors to
the show’s website and information developed from viewer
surveys, an experiment in storytelling format, extensive social
media content and network analysis, and interviews with fans.
Wang says they found that people from all 50 U.S. states and the
District of Columbia visited the show’s website, with high
proportions of visitors located in states with the highest Hispanic
and Latino populations, and visitors from an additional 163
countries also reached the site.
“So we know the show, although based on a local story,
addresses a national public health challenge, and reached audiences
all around the world,” she says.
“The important thing is that the audience didn’t
just passively watch the drama,” she says. “Many of
them went on to experience the rest of its transmedia content,
which is found on characters’ vlogs, extended scenes and
websites of partner organizations advocating for safe sex and
pregnancy prevention, a very important outcome.”
She agrees with Singhal that their analysis has proven the value
of “East Los High” not only to its broadcaster, which
is what ensured a second and third season — but also to other
scholars looking to assess the effects of transmedia and the
concept of entertainment-education.
Wang says she was familiar with Singhal’s previous work
and was excited to work with him on “East Los
“I feel connected to the series on many levels, both
personally and professionally,” she says.
“Growing up in China, I have always had a strong sense of
social responsibility,” Wang says, “so when I chose the
intersection of new technologies, social networks, health promotion
and social change as my research focus, I was very happy and proud
because all the hard work brings meaning and impact to the real
“Sexual and reproductive health is critical for young
women and men. So much adversity can be completely prevented or
properly addressed when teens have adequate information and the
impetus to use it,” she says.
“The program has presented us with unprecedented
opportunities for some cutting edge research,” Wang adds,
“and I am grateful and honored to be part of this