ABC is confident in their brand awareness, with ABC’s Entertainment chief Paul Lee going as far as saying “ABC is the No. 1 television brand in America,” despite ABC being the fourth-place network in ratings for its second season. Mr. Lee made that proclamation while announcing ABC’s fall schedule plan, which includes 8 new shows.

Although TV ratings are important, with the many ways viewers can consume content today – including watching on-demand, DVRs, and online streaming – those metrics are less meaningful as they used to be. And with those different viewing options come additional branding challenges to the networks. For example, if you are recording a show on your DVR, how likely are you to search for it via network vs. by title? If it’s the latter then people may have a lower brand awareness, which we will touch on later.

We thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at brand strength of the four TV networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) when it comes to their more popular sitcoms and dramas. In all, we asked 8 separate questions (8 total shows) and received over 1,000 responses for each of the eight questions from respondents in the U.S. ages 13 years and older.

The hypothesis was that if people could correctly associate a TV show with the network on which it airs then that leads us to believe the network is doing a good job with branding. And while we did find a show’s brand association is correlated with the number of episodes and seasons the show has aired, there were some interesting outliers, specifically in the dramas with ABC’s Scandal and Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. Both shows have relatively low episode counts, especially Sleepy Hollow, which just finished its first season. The social media push must be working for Fox’s Sleepy Hollow ratings and brand awareness. By posting previews, clips of upcoming episodes and behind-the-scene photos, they are working hard to keep fans engaged with the show.

In summary, the sitcoms’ show-to-network brand association ranged from 45% to as low as 24%, while dramas fared much lower, ranging from a high of only 28% to as low as 17%. From a network standpoint, they ranked identically in our sitcoms vs. dramas contest: CBS shows had highest network brand association, followed by ABC, NBC, and then Fox. In fairness, the CBS shows included in our polls are longer-running in terms of episode count; show longevity seems to play a big role.


Which TV network does The Big Bang Theory play on? (Correct answer = CBS)

For the longest-running show across all 8 that we asked about, at 159 episodes at press time, a whopping 45% were able to correctly identify that The Big Bang Theory airs on CBS. This is the highest of the sitcoms we asked about. 17% of people incorrectly answered and 37% said they weren’t sure.

  • 62% of 18-24 year olds correctly answered CBS for Big Bang Theory, followed by 53% of 25-29 and 35-44 year olds.

Which TV network does Modern Family play on? (Correct answer = ABC)

For all of its critical acclaim and slew of awards noms and wins, only 34% of the respondents were able to correctly identify that Modern Family airs on ABC. 17% incorrectly answered and 49% said they weren’t sure.

  • 68% of 18-24 year olds correctly answered ABC for Modern Family, followed by 50% of people 25-29 year olds.
  • 39% of people with a high school education correctly answered, and 36% of people with a college degree answered correctly.

Which TV network does Parks & Recreation play on? (Correct answer = NBC)

Similar to Modern Family, 34% of the respondents were able to correctly identify that Parks & Recreation belongs to NBC. Only 7% incorrectly answered, with most respondents at 58% saying they weren’t sure. So who were the people who answered correctly?

  • 68% of people aged 25-29 correctly answered NBC for Parks and Recreation, followed by 46% of 18-24 year olds.
  • 35% of men correctly answered vs. 33% of women.

Which TV network does New Girl play on? (Correct answer = Fox)

As the newest kid on the block of sitcoms we asked about, only 24% of our respondents correctly identified that New Girl plays on Fox. 12% answered incorrectly and 64% weren’t sure.

  • 50% of 18-24 year olds correctly answer Fox for New Girl and 48% of 25-29 years olds correctly answered.

Not surprisingly, the longer the sitcom has been airing, the higher the brand association to the network, as the following chart shows. Parks and Recreation is showing fairly strong network identity, given that it’s 8 episodes younger than Modern Family:

Brand association for TV network sitcoms


Which TV network does The Good Wife play on? (Correct answer = CBS)

28% of respondents were able to correctly identify the network for The Good Wife as CBS. 10% of people answered incorrectly, while 62% weren’t sure. Insights on those who answered correctly:

  • 35% of 35-44 and 45-54 year olds were able to correctly identify that The Good Wife airs on CBS, followed by 31% of 55-64 year olds.

Which TV network does Scandal play on? (Correct answer = ABC)

22% of respondents correctly identified that Scandal plays on ABC. 10% incorrectly answered and 68% of the population said they weren’t sure.

  • 38% of 30-34 year olds correctly answered ABC for Scandal, followed by 31% of 18-24 year olds and 25% of 35-44 year olds.
  • 30% of women correctly answered compared to only 15% of men.

Which TV network does Grimm play on? (Correct answer = NBC)

18% of our respondents correctly identified that the drama Grimm plays on NBC. 11% of people answered incorrectly while 71% of people weren’t sure of the network.

  • 29% of 30-34 year olds correctly answered NBC for Grimm, followed by 25% of 35-44 year olds.
  • 22% of women correctly answered compared to only 15% of men.

 Which TV network does Sleepy Hollow play on? (Correct answer = Fox)

Also another Fox newcomer, only 17% of respondents correctly identified that Sleepy Hollow plays on Fox. 12% wrongly identified another network whereas 71% weren’t sure of the network.

  • 32% of 35-44 year olds correctly answered that Sleepy Hollow was on Fox, followed by 23% of 45-54 year olds.
  • 21% of people with a high school education answered correctly.

Among the Dramas, ABC is scoring well with its breakout hit Scandal, which at only 44 episodes ranks only a few percentage points behind The Good Wife (112 episodes) and well ahead of Grimm (66 episodes). The Good Wife is equal in episode count at press time to Parks & Recreation, but a full 4 percentage points below in network awareness. Watch out for Sleepy Hollow though – with only 13 episodes, its network brand awareness comes very close to that of Grimm.

 Brand association for TV network dramas

In Conclusion: Demographic groups within correctly-identifying respondents reveal interesting insights about each show’s more network-aware audience. In both the sitcom and drama questions, CBS’ longer-running shows were much more likely to be identified correctly over all the other network shows. Dramas are overall a younger group in our polling study, which may be a big factor in the genre’s definite decrease in brand awareness compared to sitcoms on those same networks.

Another plausible reason dramas have a lower brand awareness could be because people are more likely to DVR dramas than comedies. In a recent article published by Media Life Magazine, it was found that 12 of the top 15 DVR’d shows were dramas. In this case, people have the option to search for the show’s title, instead of by network, potentially losing the show-to-network association.

For more data on audience segments based on how they watch TV (live, on demand/DVR, or online streaming), check out our recent blog post on the topic.