As we deck the halls with holiday cheer, TV historians will look back at 2015 as the year featuring more original scripted programs than ever before. Over 400 series – too many according to some insiders – are vying for attention this season. The way viewers consume content is no longer synonymous with watching TV on TV. The broadcast networks continue to battle audience erosion via the traditional Nielsen ratings. Cord-cutting remains a potential thorn in the future of cable as we currently know it. And how you actually define the success of a series — or lack of — is now heavily dependent on social media.
These were some of the many highlights of the broadcast arena.
December, of course, was chock full of holiday specials and fall season-finales (which is a fancy way to bring attention to a series taking a holiday breather). There were a handful of series-finales (including failed freshman dramas “Blood & Oil” on ABC and “Minority Report” on Fox), which the networks trimmed the initial episode orders for but never actually officially announced their cancellations). And NBC’s successful one-time-only trifecta — “The Wiz Live!,” made-for television movie “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors,” and musical hour “Adele Live in New York” – should warrant a definite rise in the production of live musicals, made-for television movies and musical specials.
One indefinite constant is the notion of success breeding imitation.
To adequately gauge the impact in social media during this holiday frenzy, we tailored our data in this report from Monday, Nov. 30 to Sunday, Dec. 20. Tops in the allotted three week time frame was Sunday night’s telecast of “The Miss Universe Pageant,” which resulted in a flood of social media activity after host Steve Harvey announced the wrong winner. Oops! “The Miss Universe Pageant” had 5.2 million total actions (likes, comments, shares and retweets), which was well above the 2.5 million total actions for No. 2 occupant “The Voice.” Concluding its current edition on Dec. 16, “The Voice” proves the relevance socially of interactive reality/competitions. Honorable mention, meanwhile, goes to No. 3 occupant “Scream Queens” on Fox (which concluded season one on Dec. 8) at 2.3 million. Worth repeating: “Scream Queens” could be the new definition of a “hit” series.
While Fox’s sophomore “Empire” at No. 5 overall with 2.2 million total actions is no surprise, a traditional older-skewing network drama like NBC’s “Chicago Fire” at No. 10 (1.2 million) proves that even a viewer over age 50 can be active on social media. Both “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD” have already been renewed for next season, which recently introduced spin-off “Chicago Med” will air 18 episodes for season one (and is a shoo-in for renewal for season two).
Comic-book themed dramas, meanwhile, remain an ongoing magnet in social media. All dramas in the category (including “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” on ABC, “Gotham” on Fox, “Supergirl on CBS, and “The Flash” and “Arrow” on The CW) over-index their network averages significantly based on total actions. And the category continues to grow in leaps and bounds.
Returning on Tuesday, Jan. 19 on ABC is sophomore “Marvel’s Agent Carter” (in place of “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, which is taking a breather). The CW is debuting “D.C.’s Legends of Tomorrow” on Thursday, Jan. 21. AMC has picked-up 10-episodes of “Preacher,” based on the comic book series. And in contention for next season is “SHIELD” spin-off “Marvel’s Most Wanted” on ABC.
With pilot season looming, the focus for any network on any platform in 2016 – and beyond – is to find the shows that will resonate both via the traditional Nielsen ratings and in the social media sphere. And the hit shows of today, and those of tomorrow, are now heavily dependent on their social performances.