CableTV SVG icons

How Cable TV Ratings Affect TV Shows

Cable TV Ratings

You don’t want to be left out of some of the best conversations, do you?

TV has always been at the forefront of the conversation among co-workers, friends and relatives. There’s no better way to bring everyone together than for everyone to start talking about the best (or their favorite, which may be two very different things) shows on the air right now.

With more creative flexibility, shorter season schedules, less corporate micromanaging and basically less pressure, cable TV has been able to make a significant dent in the ratings game. Some of the biggest network shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars – shows that were juggernauts just a few seasons ago – are now vulnerable and the ratings are falling.

This is largely because the quality and creativity of cable shows continues to grow. Not only that, but people are getting sick of the same old thing that network channels trot out year after year. Cable TV networks have more options and more room to take chances on shows that the big 4 of NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX might not.

Two shows currently on the air that are constantly garnering high ratings are The Walking Dead on AMC and Duck Dynasty on A&E – both cable channels. Sons of Anarchy, a drama about a Northern California motorcycle club that airs on Tuesday nights on the FX network began cutting in to the networks ratings numbers last season. This is becoming more and more common on other cable channels as well.

Networks are under a lot more pressure to find audiences much quicker, which is why many network shows either have long, steady runs or are quickly canceled. Cable channels, on the other hand, have the luxury of being able to let their shows find a voice, get their footing and build an audience. Sons of Anarchy wasn’t able to start cutting in to the networks ratings until its fifth season, when word of mouth and positive reviews nudged it over the top.

The Walking Dead has been referred to as an “anomaly” by network executives, some of whom think the more rigid guidelines of what can and can’t be shown on network television give it an advantage that network shows just can’t match. Horror shows like that work better on cable, because the demographic is a bit younger. The Walking Dead was the top-rated scripted show on television for the 2012-2013 season and just the second highest-rated show overall, with top honors going to NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

As cable continues to flex its muscle and spread its wings, it’s getting harder for the networks to compete. The clear winner in all of this though, is the viewer. With so many people trying so hard to win the ratings game, the quality of programming continues to be raised and the shows keep getting better.

Jess Hutton loves to research, and she loves playing with apps, gadgets, and food. When she's not face-to-face with a screen, she and her husband take their two dogs out for hikes and ice cream.

Leave a comment