Published on Feb 22nd, 2017
By Marc Berman
SportsCenter on ESPN topped the month of January 2017 among all TV shows, with over 87M Total Actions across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Comparably, that was more than triple the No. 2 occupant on cable, Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars, which at just over 25M total actions is particularly impressive because this social pioneer does not return for its final 10 episodes until April 18th. The most recent installment in the current seventh season aired on August 30, 2016.
With the two-hour series finale of Pretty Little Liars slated for June 20th, much of the social activity at present is centered on the early farewell posts, speculation about the unsolved mysteries (using hashtags #PLLMemoryLane, #PLLTheory and #PLLEndgame), and the trailer for the remaining episodes of this final season.
"I think our most loyal fans from the beginning are going to be very, very satisfied with the finale, ” said Troian Bellisario in a recent interview , who plays Spencer and directed an upcoming episode of the drama.
Immediately following the series finale of Pretty Little Liars will be a one-hour after show, including interviews with stars Bellisario, Ashley Benson , Lucy Hale , Shay Mitchell and Sasha Pieterse , as well as creator I. Marlene King. These three hours of Pretty Little Liars, not to mention the original episodes leading up to them are expected to surge in social media interest given the past track record.
The Social Importance of Pretty Little Liars
Following in the paths of dramas St. Elsewhere and thirtysomething before it, which began in the 1980s and demonstrated the value of the young adult demographics; or Netflix entries like Orange is the New Black, which exhibit the growing relevance of the digital streamers, Pretty Little Liars is the poster child for social media. As seen by this intriguing mystery drama, success by the traditional Nielsen ratings is no longer the sole measure the success for any television series. Social also matters.
Five other cable series rounded off the Top 10 for the month of January – E! News (#4: 15,717,127 total actions), MTV’s Teen Wolf (#5: 15,414, 439), AMC’s The Walking Dead (#6: 12,895,000), Freeform’s Shadow Hunters (#7: 10,299,419) and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show (#9: 8,485,370). The Walking Dead, like Pretty Little Liars, did not air any original episodes in January (which only magnifies its value in social media). And Teen Wolf, based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie of the same name, will officially conclude with its 100 th episode later this year.
Second overall in January behind SportsCenter, and the only syndicated entry among the Top 10, was talker The Ellen DeGeneres Show from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution at over 44 million actions (and a top-ranked 196,221,940 total video views). Competing Today on NBC and Good Morning America on ABC rounded off the Top 10 listing of Total Actions – Today at No. 8 (9,595,206 actions) and Good Morning America at No. 10 (7,687,280). The two morning network franchises, in fact, held the top two spots among the broadcast networks. Ellen’s top social post Instagram, captured over 1.2 million actions.
Skewed primarily to women 25-54 (and older), three spots in this top January 2017 tier for Ellen, Today and Good Morning America demonstrate that social media interest involves the gamut of all demographics, young and old.
Based on all shows in primetime, there are two scripted network dramas, both serialized in nature, cracking the top 10 – NBC’s This Is Us (#6: 4,679,901 total actions) and Grey’s Anatomy on ABC (#7: 3,418,694). Just renewed for the 2017-18 season, Grey’s Anatomy, at a lucky 13 seasons by the next year, will become the 11th longest running scripted drama in the history of television (behind – in order of seasons -- Gunsmoke and Law & Order, tied at 20; Law & Order: SVU; Lassie; CSI, ER and NCIS; Knots Landing, Bonanza and Dallas). Freshman This Is Us, meanwhile, was recently renewed for two seasons.
The Golden Globe Awards (#8: 3.321,657) on NBC was another network entry of note, but particularly prominent at No. 9 was Sherlock on PBS, which at just three episodes in this recently concluded fourth season proves that less can sometimes be more.
The Late Show on CBS may have recently beat The Tonight Show on NBC in total viewers for the first time since 2015 (2.8 million viewers for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for the week of Jan. 30, according to Nielsen, was 12,000 more than The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon), but it was Fallon who topped the network late night talk shows in social actions. It ranked fourth among all network broadcast shows with close to 6M total actions.
The upcoming revival of drama Prison Break on Fox, which returns on Tuesday, April 4 at 9 p.m. ET, is already abuzz with social media activity at No. 5 with 4,751,304 total actions. Results in February may very likely also include the recent revival of 24: Legacy, also on Fox. Stay tuned.
The Nightly News with Lester Holt on NBC, meanwhile, proves there is social value in the traditional network news at No. 3 overall among all broadcast shows overall (with 5,889,627 total actions).
In syndication, Judge Judy, Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud and Jeopardy may continue to lead the Nielsen ratings this season (and every season). But not one of the four first-run syndicated strips could crack the top tier in total social actions. Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution was the home to three such strips – aforementioned The Ellen DeGeneres Show, TMZ and The Real. Ranked last in the genre this season in the Nielsen household rating (tied with CBS Television Distribution’s The Doctors at a 0.9), The Real, now in season four, owes its survival to social media.
Entertainment Tonight from CBS Television Distribution, which remains solidly afloat despite the recent cancellation of 13-year-old spin-off The Insider, ranked No. 3 overall at over 3M total actions. There was also three other syndicated talkers populating the top tier: LIVE with Kelly from Disney/ABC, The Steve Harvey Show from NBCUniversal and Dr. Phil from CBS Television Distribution. One of the priorities at Disney/ABC is to find a permanent co-host for Kelly Ripa.
Although the current version of The Steve Harvey Show will be coming to an end this season, busy Harvey will produce a new daily syndicated hour of talk with talent agency WME-IMG and distributed by NBCUniversal.
Among the new shows across all platforms in January, the social media presence of the Kardashians was in view via recent entry Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian on E! at No. 3 (with 357,947 total actions). Second was BET miniseries biopic, The New Edition Story, at 421,949 actions. But neither cable entry, or any of the other top occupants, could compete with NBC’s This Is Us (#1: 4,679,901), which happens to also be the biggest new hit network series via the traditional Nielsen ratings since ABC entries Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey’s Anatomy in the 2004-05 TV season. That’s right...12 years ago!
Tucker Carlson Live on Fox News at 9 p.m. in place of The Kelly File, hosted by Megyn Kelly, was on the January map at No. 9 with 158,689 total actions. NBC freshman dramas Emerald City and Timeless also made the cut, but neither scripted drama is expected back next season as a result of the low Nielsen ratings.
Finally, evidence of how the broadcast networks have abandoned programming Saturday is quite clear in the following charting in order of the most total actions for any network series on the evening in January. CBS made an attempt this month by scheduling Canadian drama Ransom, the first original scripted series on the night, perhaps, since CBS dramas Hack and The District in the 2003-04 season. But the interest for Ransom has been minimal and the brunt of original Saturday night programming, at present, remains veteran 48 Hours on CBS.
Coming up next week: Social activity at The 89 Annual Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, on ABC.