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Make’em Cry: Drama Genre Overwhelming Choice Among Viewers

Published on April 20, 2012

Suffering sells, finds the Nielsen Company, so put your ad bucks into the “CSI” and “Law And Order” franchises—maybe “Smash,” “Mad Men” and “Revenge.”

Nielsen reports that drama accounted for the most viewing time and ad spend in 2011, despite all the attention-grabbing press about reality TV and breakout comedies.

Nielsen has released some findings about viewership and advertising across five traditional primetime genres, including drama, news, reality, sitcom and sports, to discover that drama accounted for 41.1% of viewership in 2011. Sports was second, at 22.5%. Sitcoms (perhaps the diametric opposite of drama, and despite all that press about stuff like “Modern Family”)? Just 11.4%--nearly half of the share by hours of primetime drama.

But for some reason, media buyers have no respect for the suffering-and-tears genre. More than half of all broadcast TV product placements during primetime took place on reality programs (4,664), including numerous shout-outs to Travelocity on “The Great Race”; and on sitcoms, including Purell hand wipes on “The Big Bang Theory. Perhaps a better investment would be Clorox wipes on “CSI” or “Revenge,” cleaning up those crime scenes.

The Nielsen study crosses both broadcasting and cable. Broadcasters have the upper hand with primetime drama ("CSI," even "90210"). Sure it has reality ("The Voice," "American Idol," "The Bachelor/Bachelorette") but cable overwhelmingly owns reality ("America's Next Top Model," "Storage Wars," anything on HGTV).