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Shondaland – By the Advertising Numbers

August 15th 2017

Last fall as ABC launched its first “Thank God Its Thursday” (#TGIT) show in years that didn’t have the stamp of approval from Shonda Rhimes, Notorious, the Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg quite aptly said “Heaven help ABC if Shonda Rhimes ever decides to take her talents to a different network.”

His point – Notorious wasn’t anywhere near the standard Rhimes had set with her hits Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and more recently, The Catch. And, he was right. The show didn’t even make it past the mid-term break and was one of the first new dramas of 2016 cancelled. Now, nearly a year later, ABC is faced with the very real fact that it may have a lot more shows like Notorious in its future, as Rhimes has done just what Fienberg predicted – she’s taking her talents to Netflix.

While this won’t affect anything immediately – as those shows, and a reported new one in the works from Rhimes – will still air on ABC. But, it did get us thinking, what mountain is ABC going to have to climb to get the same type of advertising revenue its now getting from Rhimes’ shows? To answer that question, we focus here on Shondaland’s contribution to ad revenue.

Over the past 3.5 years, Jan. 2014 through June 2017, Rhimes’ shows have made up 14% of all of ABC’s prime-time entertainment advertising revenue – including new episodes and reruns.

Looking at just the 2016 – 2017 season (Sept. 2016 – May 2017) that number jumps to 17% of all prime-time entertainment revenue collected from original episodes. Breaking that down even further and, looking at just prime-time dramas – that number jumps to 44% of all ad revenue for the 2016-2017 broadcast season. This aligns almost exactly with how ratings lined up for the 2016-2017 season. As reported in AdAge, Shondaland’s shows last season made up 20% of ABC's prime-time scripted gross ratings points and 44% of its drama GRPs.

What does this all mean in dollars? The big three of these shows, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder brought in almost $200M in revenue for originals alone. But, this was a stark decline compared to the previous seasons of the show. Grey’s Anatomy was the only show of the three to increase its revenue with +3% more spend on the show for Season 13 than Season 12. Scandal, because of its hiatus, was down nearly -53% in Season 6, compared to season 5. How to Get Away with Murder similarly saw a sharp drop in revenue of -36%, but unlike Scandal, had the same number of episodes in Season 3 as it did in Season 2.

And, after 13 years, Grey’s Anatomy didn’t just win on ABC but continued to be one of the top shows across all of prime-time entertainment bringing in an average :30 second unit cost of $170,098 in the second half of its season (Jan.17 – May.17). The show just missed medaling, as its 4th in line behind Empire, breakout hit This Is Us, and FOX’s 24: Legacy, when looking across prime-time dramas.

Want to better understand how this move might affect advertising dollars across networks? Or, how other shows have performed in comparison? Get in touch and see what SMI data can do for you.

SMI Team

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