Today, Luther Ingram isn’t exactly a household name, but in the early 1970s he lit up the music world with a #1 R&B Billboard Hit, “If Loving You is Wrong.” In its day, the lyrics were quite risqué as Ingram portrayed a married man carrying out an illicit affair with a woman to whom he mourns the soulful words:
Am I wrong to fall so deeply in love with you
knowing I got a wife and two little children
depending on me too
Which brings me to the subject for this week’s blog… the biggest hit series (by far) on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), “If Loving you is Wrong” — a steamy, over-the-top primetime soap opera that is pulling down ratings that many TV shows can only dream about. According to Wikipedia, the show is “loosely based” on the 2014 film, “The Single Moms Club,” but given the over-the-top drama (and infidelity), I suspect the show’s creators (consciously or not) harked back to Luther Ingram’s hit song. Otherwise, how does one explain the two having the exact same title?
In any event, the show is about ordinary neighbors living in an ordinary, middle-class town. But there’s nothing ordinary about their libidos and you can toss right out the window the 10th Commandment, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” The very first episode from Season One begins with Dr. Randall Holmes’ (actor Eltony Williams) steamy tryst with Alex Montgomery (played by the actress, Amanda Clayton.) This is, of course, a soap opera so the affair has serious implications galore. For example, Dr. Holmes destroys both his own marriage and close friendship with Brad Montgomery, who happens to be married to Alex. Worse… Alex is pregnant and there’s not a very good chance that Brad is the father since he underwent a vasectomy after two kids with Alex. The affair also destroys the friendship between Alex and Randall’s wife, Marcie. And, so, the two spurned spouses (Brad and Marcie) have their own affair which leads to another pregnancy (by Season Three.)
Doesn’t matter. There are numerous entangled plot lines that have cast a spell on the viewing public. Season One ended with the highest scripted drama rating (and share) in the history of the Oprah Winfrey Network, and the numbers just kept going up from there in Seasons Two and Three. At a time when the vast majority of television series are experiencing audience erosion due to the migration of viewing to digital video (and Overt-the-Top TV), “If Loving You is Wrong” has bucked that trend with impressive growth:
Not only is Live viewing trending up for “If Loving You is Wrong” (when TV usage is headed in the other direction), but the show also exhibits a high level of DVR activity which raises the average rating nearly 2-fold after 15 days — a sure sign of viewer interest and engagement:
Local Market Viewing Skew
To get a sense of regional viewing skews for “If Loving You is Wrong,” we selected the Top 25 DMAs with the highest ratings through the first 5 episodes of Season Three (autumn, 2016.) Every single market is located south of the Mason-Dixon Line, with 15 of the markets found in just three deep southern States: Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana. But the geographic skew is a bit more nuanced. It turns out that the show attracts a significant African-American audience. In Season Three, for example, the Live U.S. household rating was 1.36, whereas the rating within African-American homes was over 5-times that level (7.55 rating.) Given this remarkable demographic viewing skew, it comes as no surprise that all of the Top 25 Markets have significant African-American populations, with the Median rank being 50 (out of 200+ DMAs):
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Over its first three seasons, “If Loving You is Wrong” has attracted 70+ advertisers, who ordered 460+ spots across 19 Viamedia markets (one-quarter of Viamedia’s national footprint.) That comes to an average of 2.7 spots per advertiser (per season).
(Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
In breaking out our internal records by product category, we find Automotive with the highest share (28%), which is slightly lower than what we normally see for this category company-wide. Significantly over-represented in the show is Entertainment & Travel with a share level (19%) which is more than triple the company-wide average. Financial Services (11% share) and Furniture & Floor Coverings (8% share) are also over-represented by a factor of two:
On to Season Four
Had I caught a screening of “If Loving You is Wrong” before it launched three years ago, I probably would have never guessed it would last this long, or done so well. For one thing, the story lines are a bit of a stretch, and for another the writing is rather stilted and melodramatic. And as for the acting – well, let’s just not go there. But, clearly, this show is doing something right in the depiction of all things salacious as it enters Season Four with a tremendous amount of audience momentum.
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP of Media Research, Viamedia