Do viewers want drama on Sunday nights?

With British dramas beating flagship current affairs, viewers are sending TV programmers a message they don't want to hear.

Are viewers sending TV programmers a message that they are just not getting?

For the past two weeks ABC dramas Midsomer Murders and Vera have won their 8:30 timeslots on Sundays, outranking both Sunday Night and 60 Minutes.

It begs the question: are viewers wanting to sink their teeth into a drama at 8:30 when Seven and Nine are force-feeding them current affairs? It’s the traditional movie timeslot to chill out before the working week begins.

After all we are traditionally used to current affairs in an earlier slot on Sundays, with 60 Minutes having decades of 7:30 triumphs.

But now greedy reality shows, testing our patience at 90 minutes have pushed those shows back to 8:30pm starts.

ABC wins suggest a significant chunk of the audience is looking for drama at 8:30, leaving the big two to divide their audience. How many more are being lost to Streaming?

But it’s not so simple, with TEN struggling with 24: Legacy bumped to 9:30 with Bull landing fourth in its timeslot. Brit dramas Death in Paradise and Broadchurch are also drawing good ABC crowds on the weekend.

TV historian Andrew Mercado told TV Tonight, “It’s very interesting that American dramas on free to air TV are sinking in the ratings at an alarming rate yet over on the ABC, British dramas are more than holding their own.

“They are already winning their timeslots on Fridays and Saturdays and now with the right British drama on Sunday, the ABC can win that too. This is because the ABC has consistency in their schedule and they don’t program drama as an afterthought off the backs of overblown reality formats.”

31 Responses

  1. The big advantage for the ABC is that they are also advert free, those shows probably wouldn’t do as well on 7/9/10 due to the adverts, ABC for me is the next watch one after Netflix and Stan. Though I do think a show like Once Upon A Time would do well in a 6:30pm or 7:30pm on Seven proper, as it rated well at that time before they started showing it 3 times a week to burn of episodes for the Olympics. I know they’re showing it 5:30pm – 6:30pm Sundays on 7Flix in new episodes, well 5 episodes into the first half of Season 6, shown in the US Sept – Dec last year (with the 2nd half starting in the US yesterday), however I still think it would do well on Seven proper.

    However not sure about other drama, I don’t think say Scorpion, MacGuyver, Hawaii Five-0, 6:30pm -9:30pm Sunday would fair any better than it did Saturday, not going to Criminal Minds figures when TEN were the first to…

    1. … do drama on Sunday many years ago. Be interesting to see though what starting NCIS at 7:30pm on Sunday followed by NCIS: Las Vegas and NCIS: New Orleans (or Elementary/Sleepy Hollow) would do though, given they could with M Rating allowed at 7:40pm since Dec 2015.

          1. Hahaha yep, damn I had a bad day yesterday Criminal Minds instead of Intent, Las Vegas (where the original CSI was) instead of Los Angeles and other things elsewhere … ah well such is life.

    2. Are you kidding me!?! New eps of Once Upon A Time are back!!??! How did I miss this..? Oh that’s right, because the commercial networks treat drama viewers with disinterest and make it hard to follow shows around a schedule.. no wonder we don’t watch them anymore. Thank goodness for streaming and the public broadcasters..

  2. The thing with 10 is new dramas e.g. 24 Legacy and TIU. The ratings for both US dramas is a main issue where it lost to ABC. Worst of it was 24 – possibly due to missed storylines.
    I think this drama should move to 1 or even 11.

  3. Very good article. Lets hope the powers that be at the networks take heed, and maybe start with reducing Sunday night news back to half an hour. and a reality show that dosn’t go for more than 60 minutes would be a dream. Same with 60 minutes going for 70 plus minutes. I have thus far been recording Lethal Weapon on Sunday nights and watching it at a more viewer friendly time.

    1. Yeah I agree, I always like David’s thought provoking posts and the inclusion of an expert provides evidence.
      Cheers to more drama (and not movies on Sunday nights). Just don;t bombard us and then saturate drama all on Sunday. I am liking the even spread my week currently has.
      Also must note that This is US, seems to be going well, despite some late starts.

  4. I have to also add agreement to what Secret Squirrel writes.

    If a network promotes one show right up until the advertised start time and then shows something else, that is a serious betrayal of trust with the viewers and really represents unconscionable conduct.

    Ten have made a habit recently of advertising Law and Order SVU week after week and then always showing a This is Us repeat instead. It is clear they never had any intention of screening Law and Order and were trying to ‘trick’ viewers into watching a repeat of a program from a previous night.

    That is hardly the best way to engender trust from your viewers or genuine interest in your programs.

  5. Inevitably a thread like this attracts mostly negative commentary but I have to agree with the sentiment that American television drama is not being watched for several quite evident reasons;

    1) No consistency of timeslots – different days, repeats shoved in between ‘real’ episodes.

    2) Shows not starting on time – if your EPG is off by half an hour I am not going to sit around waiting for your endlessly boring reality show to finish. In that scenario I am going somewhere else, to a DVD, something I have recorded or You Tube.

    3) Slow tracking of shows, especially dramas with continuing storylines, destroys any momentum. If I cannot talk about it with friends overseas at the time they are doing so my interest is diminished. I want to make this realty clear – if a program is delayed, even by twenty four hours then it is simply too late to even conceive of viewing it.

  6. Do viewers want drama on Sunday nights? Yes please! Well this viewer certainly does. Good British drama or Australian family drama like Dr. Blake or Miss Fisher’s murder mysteries. Agree that 60 Minutes and alike are better suited to 7.30 pm

  7. Another “me too” here.

    Mercado’s last para sums it up. Seven, Nine, and Ten simply can’t be trusted to even start an overseas drama at the advertised time, let alone show it at the same time the following week. It’s also ridiculous that when you check ahead in the TV guide they often have “TBA”, or the program that is listed is not the one that is broadcast.

    I stream all my dramas unless they’re on SBS or ABC. It’s just easier.

  8. I have got to agree with all the gripes about the FTA big 3. Often it seems as if they are in a conspiracy to ensure that nobody knows when the latest episode of a successful show like The Blacklist will air. On Sunday nights my DVR cannot handle the overlapping multiple drama/crime shows that start after I go to bed. And according to my Foxtel online tv guide, quite often they have no programming data from big 3 for huge swathes of the coming days. If I were an advertiser I would be lowering the price I’d be willing to pay for an advert on the big 3. Not surprising their ad revenues are down when they are doing such a poor job of attracting and holding viewers. Of course, I am 54 years old myself so I’m pretty sure this comment would be invisible to any reader who is a FTA television exec.

  9. No one trusts ch7,9 & 10 with drama. Add in, that the ABC starts on time and isn’t rammed with ads and in the current streaming era they get a winner. I like 24 Legacy, but its not for everyone, so I watch it on TenPlay and even that is painful…yeah I know they will put some ads in..fair enough…but the ads don’t load or play properly and I keep having to restart the show….its crap really.

  10. I remember the good old days “Sunday Night At The Movies” only problem was they all put on good movies at the same time,with the ABC having the main channel in HD adds to the enjoyment

  11. On a Sunday evening, I watch the first 20 minutes of news, then FTA is not watched again until the following day, as the commercial networks have nothing of interest to me. Bogans in the kitchen on 7, Bogans getting married on Nine, and people trying to explain why they were celebrities on Ten. No thanks to all that, and by 8.30pm, I’m well invested in something I’ve recorded or streamed, so not going to pause that for FTA.

  12. I have noticed that the ratings only go up to the 54 age group. Don’t the rest of us count in viewings? They might find the ratings would show up differently for some shows if they considered what us ‘older’ people like to watch. Or don’t they want to know that?

  13. I totally agree Max, all this reality is, to me, only moslty entertaining the younger crowd. I prefer a show like Vera or Midsummer on a Sunday night at 8.30pm. One of the NCIS shows use to be on too. Its more relaxing than some violent movie or more news and more news. Why is there so much news, its really depressing to watch it all the time and so monotonous to hear the same thing over and over. Channels have turned their backs on good dramas, and personally I prefer the American or British shows to a lot of the Australian dramas. We are portrayed as idiots on many occassions. *hides under table* NCIS is usually 13 episodes behind in the new season and then they wonder why it gets repeat ratings. I am so tired of this 9pm time start for drama shows as well. Its time to move everything 30 minutes earlier and can a few news shows. Everytime you look at the ratings its mostly all…news.

    1. Am a member of said younger crowd, and no, reality isn’t targeted at us. No one I know watches MAFS; MKR is only watched as “background” TV. I’m a celeb is endured because of the challenges and Julia Morris (we find her cringe inducing ability to be fantastic).

      Trust me, we love to watch Midsummer and Vera and Death in Paradise. There’s a familiarity with the end result which reality and American dramas don’t have!

      1. Yeah I avoid the news as much as I can, as it is mostly doom and gloom and they rehash so much and make it more of an issue. Plus the selective reporting means they only share what they think we want or what they want!
        As for the younger crowd, I actually agree that MKR and MAFS don’t seem like shows the youth want to watch!

  14. American dramas are sinking because it’s mainly 7/9/10 that plays them and people don’t trust them to have them on at the same time and on the same day every week with taking them off plus with spoilers everywhere people don’t want to wait months to watch and possibly get spoiled. The last drama I watched on FTA was the first season of The Originals and that got screwed after the mid season break airing at midnight months after America. If FTA treated their drama’s like Foxtel treats The Walking Dead having it on hours after the US at the same time and same day every week I think more people would watch American drama’s on FTA.

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