A decade ago the sitcom was king. Today – reality rules.  Crime dramas are still fan favorites and comedies are trying to make a comeback.  What programming genres continue to keep viewers tuned in?

Reality Shows – Long-running favorites, such as Idol and Survivor are top-rated among prime shows.  Low production costs keep networks churning out new offerings, but this overabundance has attributed to overall viewer fatigue in the category.

Dramas – Cop shows are at the top of the charts with NCIS, NCIS LA, and Criminal Minds remaining strong.  Quirky offerings such as Grimm and Alcatraz have not faired as well, nor have stylized knock-offs (of shows like Mad Men) Pan Am and the Playboy Club.

Sitcoms – Today’s TV audiences like “smart” humor.  Quality, relatable comedies are fairing best, like Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, and the new Fox show, New Girl.  Strong women leads are the current trend.

Sports – In this DVR age, the live action of real-time sports captures audiences, which is very favorable for advertisers.  Facebook and Twitter also perpetuate the popularity of live sporting events, which have a strong sense of community.

So who scores big with viewers?  Looking at a recent ratings snapshot published by Nielsen (week of March 12, 2012), the top 5 shows based on households were:

  1. American Idol (Fox)- Wednesday
  2. American Idol (Fox)- Thursday
  3. The Voice (NBC)
  4. NCIS (CBS)
  5. CSI (CBS)

Local Philly ratings fell in line with the national numbers, though NCIS LA edged out CSI for a top 5 spot.  Also, the return of reality powerhouse Dancing with the Stars (ABC) has quickly placed this at the top of the “leader board” with more recent analyses.

What does this mean for the future of primetime?  Viewers will continue to demand quality shows and story lines that will capture their attention across multiple screens.  This is good for our industry, because networks are forced to bring their “A Game” to program development.  Likewise, we can continue to place our clients’ ads in more high impact environments where viewers are more likely to be engaged.