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Dramas Still Boast Widest Viewership

Jan 1, 2007  •  Post A Comment

From IAG Research

A gaze backward reveals this truth about prime-time broadcast program genres: Almost any format can succeed.

At different times one genre has been more dominant-comedies about a decade or so ago, dramas circa 1983 and Westerns in the late 1950s. “Star Trek,” the sci-fi classic, was considered by its creator to be “`Wagon Train’ [a huge hit Western] in outer space.” More recently, reality made its splash. Even that old chestnut so in vogue in the 1950s, the game show, has enjoyed a resurgence.

From a viewership perspective, even though “American Idol” draws TV’s largest series audiences, drama is currently the most widely viewed genre during broadcast network prime time.

Of course drama is not a homogeneous category. Among the subgroups are adventure, serial, science-fiction/fantasy and procedural (which, as with the “Law & Order” and “CSI” franchises, comprise a large chunk of broadcast programming).

Using a continuing storyline has been integral to daytime serial dramas for decades, dating back to soap operas originally airing on radio. In recent years, this technique has been adapted to such very popular but very different prime-time series as “Desperate Housewives” (comedy/drama), “Lost” (multiple genres) and “24” (action/adventure), among others. The ongoing storyline was employed for many of the broadcast networks’ new fall dramas such as “Kidnapped,” “The Nine,” “Runaway” and “Vanished.”

TV critics can pay homage to their favorites and we can get daily counts as to the number of viewers of each program. But which drama series really involve viewers? IAG Research data, generated from literally tens of millions of program-specific surveys from more than 1 million panelists, has shown a powerful link between engagement with a show and general ad recall.

We have selected one drama from each of the five broadcast networks that has achieved, season to date, the highest program engagement score. Four of these five use an ongoing story. These include newcomer “Heroes” (NBC), as well as “One Tree Hill” (The CW), “Lost” (ABC) and “Prison Break” (Fox). The fifth leader is action drama “The Unit” (CBS).