While some industry watchers are speculating about the current troubled state of sitcoms and whether broadcast networks can reasonably compete with cable when it comes to dramas, we wondered if TV viewing audiences associate certain networks as being better providers of sitcom and drama programming content. We took it to the CivicScience polls and our InsightStore™; during a week in late May 2014, we received about 3,000 responses to each of the following two questions:
- Which of the TV networks do you believe produces the overall best sitcoms?
- Which of the TV networks do you believe produces the overall best dramas?
We asked respondents to choose between the four broadcast networks or indicate that they have “no strong opinion.” So who wins? In general, CBS is the leader but as you dig a little deeper, it turns out it depends on who you ask.
When it comes to sitcoms, two-thirds (67%) of respondents have an opinion – of those, CBS leads with 36% of the responding U.S. audience saying they have the best sitcoms overall. This could be in large part to the long-standing success of The Big Bang Theory, which has very strong show-network brand connection. NBC trails among the opinionated group with 15.5%.
However, network-sitcom preferences are more likely to change among certain demographic groups.
- Even though CBS had the most respondents in both gender groups, ABC, known to draw a heavily female audience, is more likely to be favored by women than men (20% vs. 11%) for its half-hour comedies and edges out CBS among women respondents (22% for ABC vs. 21% for CBS). Looking at ABC’s newly published 2014 fall show line up, this is not likely to change – with new sitcom additions titled: Selfie, Manhattan Love Story, Cristela, and Black-ish (about a successful black family… hm, sounds like a modern-day Cosby Show).
- ABC and NBC are more likely to be chosen for their sitcoms by those under age 34. ABC wins decisively among Millennials.
- NBC’s sitcoms were also favored somewhat more by those making $50K-$75K in annual household income.
- CBS is more likely to be favored as the overall best sitcommer (can we create a new word?) among 35-54 years and also among all viewers who watch 6+ hours of TV per day.
- Fox was more likely to be chosen for sitcoms by those who watch 1-2 hours of TV per day.
In the drama category, 68% of respondents have an opinion – and of those, ABC and CBS are neck-and-neck, with 32% and 33.5% favoring those networks for overall drama programming. NBC also trails here with 15% of these opinionated respondents.
The demographic shifts here are somewhat similar to what we see in the sitcom category. CBS still ranks the highest in respondent counts across both genders here as well, which may be due to its success with The Good Wife and crime dramas CSI and the NCIS franchise.
- As they did for sitcoms, women are more likely than men to pick ABC for dramas (25% vs. 14%) and the alphabet network beats CBS across women overall, but women are also more likely to favor NBC dramas over men (12% vs. 8%).
- Men are more likely to prefer Fox for dramas over women (16% vs. 9%), which is an interesting insight considering Fox’s heavy schedule of sitcoms and reality programming. But we are collecting opinion and perception with this polling question, so there it is.
- As with sitcoms, ABC is also more likely to be preferred for dramas with the younger set – this time those 29 years or younger. CBS is more likely to be picked as having the best dramas overall among those aged 55+.
- NBC was somewhat more likely to be favored for dramas by those with households making $75K-$100K per year.
(As an interesting side note, we also found that respondents who consider themselves to be “overweight” are more likely to pick CBS for both sitcoms and dramas. May relate to watching more hours of TV per day?)
The TV networks will no doubt be making changes as they lead into the fall programming lineup, as we see already with NBC, and Fox may be making some big decisions in the wake of the recently-announced departure of its entertainment chairman, Kevin Reilly. It is likely going to take some major ratings wins over several seasons before any of the three start to change U.S. audience perception of CBS as the overall leader of sitcom and drama content.
Our process: The two poll questions ran on the CivicScience syndicated network across hundreds of U.S. publisher websites from May 21, 2014 to May 27, 2014. The anonymous responses were weighted for U.S. Census representativeness by gender and age, 13 years and older, and filtered for U.S. only locations. The CivicScience InsightStore™ was used to cross-tabulate those respondents against other questions they have previously answered. A minimum of 1,000 combined responses to any cross-tabbed questions were required to be included in this analysis.