The today and tomorrow of television

Every May, the US television industry reaches a turning point as the primetime TV seasons draw to a close while network executives and media buyers gather in New York to plan the upcoming year’s programming at the Upfronts. At this quasi year-end for TV, we looked into the shows making a splash so far in 2017, themes coming out of the Upfronts for the 2017-2018 season, the brands that are the best fit for the new shows, and the effect the political landscape is having on comedy and late night programming.

Once again, The Walking Dead is on track to be the year’s most socially engaged TV show. AMC’s juggernaut has long been hailed as one of TV’s most highly-rated series, and it continues to smash the competition this year. Pretty Little Liars, one of the most socially engaged shows in 2016, remained in the top 5 in 2017 as it wraps up its final season. NBC’s freshman hit This Is Us joins the list as a new cultural phenomenon raking in over 10 million engagements.

While election years tend to bring more attention to comedians, late night comedy programming has continued to ride the wave into 2017. The Daily Show has already amassed 15.8 million engagements in 2017, which is more than half its level of social engagement for the entirety of 2016. The Tonight Show is not far behind with 13.5 million engagements year-to-date.

The parade of talent and program scheduling that dominates the Upfronts may seem like a dog and pony show, but it serves the purpose of allowing media planners to evaluate new programming and schedules for advertising fit. When creating media plans, we believe in the power of data from real people to understand where brands can find their TV audiences. We used the 4C Insights Affinity Graph™ to match brands to the 5 major broadcast networks and several of the new shows being introduced in the 2017-2018 season. For example, we found people interested in Mello Yello engaged with FOX content while Lego matches well with the CW.

When it comes to specific new programming coming in the 2017-2018 season, ABC’s The Good Doctor, a medical drama from House creator David Shore has received the most social buzz over the course of the Upfronts. Aquafresh would make a good sponsor for the new series based on data of people engaging with The Good Doctor. Clothing brand RIPT Apparel is popular among people engaging with sci-fi shows The Orville and The Gifted, showing a trend of the genre being a good fit for advertising from the brand.

Networks are making a big play for nostalgia with reboots of popular shows from the past few decades. Roseanne has generated the most social media buzz over the past few weeks with ABC’s confirmation of the long-rumored revival. The network is also responsible for the reboot of American Idol, which originally ran on FOX. Cult hit Twin Peaks from Showtime was the second-most buzzed about revival during the Upfronts. Meanwhile, the second installation of FOX’s The X-Files brought in more than 71,000 engagements. Will & Grace is not the only NBC revival – it’s also bringing back its “Must See TV” advertising slogan for Thursday night programming and moving This Is Us to the ever-competitive night.

The 90s aren’t the only thing staging a comeback in 2017. Late night comedy has used the current politcial landscape to its advantage seeing an increase in popularity that started during the 2016 Presidential Election season remain strong well into this year.

Saturday Night Live just completed its highest rated season in 23 years, which was rife with impersonations of the current administration. The February 5th episode of SNL, including an expletive-ridden monologue from host Kristen Stewart and Melissa McCarthy’s first appearance as Press Secretary Sean Spicer, caused the biggest stir on social media this season. Following in terms of engagement were the first episode to air post-election and the episode hosted by resident-Trump impersonator, Alec Baldwin. Proving that must-see TV must still be seen live, and riding the wave of its increase in popularity, SNL made the decision to air live coast to coast for the final four weeks of the season.

Late night TV hosts are also feeling a surge in politics-related popularity this year. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, which ranks in the most engaged series overall for the year, has received the most social media engagement of the 5 major late night shows over the past few weeks. Close behind Fallon is The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which has sparked controversy and led to an increase in “Colbert advertisers” searches due to Colbert’s recent monologues of President Trump.

Here at 4C, we’re always keeping an eye on trends in TV and social media. Stay tuned for more on how we’re seeing pop-culture, sports, and politics play out in the media landscape.