If you take the circa 1970s TV series, “Kung Fu” (starring David Carradine), and mix it with several recent dystopian shows such as AMC’s “The Walking Dead and TNT’s “Falling Skies”, what would you get? You would have the foundation for AMC’s “Into the Badlands” which premieres for a second season on March 19th, 2017. But the Kung Fu fighting that Baby Boomers grew up with hardly resembles what takes place in “Badlands,” which has gravity-defying, bone-crunching martial arts fighting that is highly choreographed and quite bloody. Indeed, if you are a Kung Fu fight fan, then stop right here; kick up your feet and settle in for some amazingly violent fight scenes.
There is, of course, a plot that has been woven in between all of the stylized fighting which can be summarized as follows. The current world as we know it no longer exists, and has been replaced by a futuristic (yet backward-looking) feudal society run by some very mean people – seven barons who have carved up the post-apocalyptic America landscape into their own personal drug fiefdoms. The meanest is Quinn (played by the actor Martin Csokas of “Lord of the Rings” fame) who happens to grow vast fields of poppy flowers, and they are not for household decorations. Like all the other Barons, Quinn needs protection in the form of a “Clipper” – what we would call an “enforcer”, or more to the point, a trained assassin highly skilled in the martial arts.
Quinn’s clipper goes by the ironic name of, “Sunny,” who is the star of the show and is played by the actor, Daniel Wu Yin-cho. We know Sunny is very loyal to Quinn if for no other reason than the hundreds of tattoos he wears on his back to symbolize each and every person he’s killed in the service of Quinn. But at least Sunny is a killer with enough good sense to realize his employer is pure evil and that staying in his service is not a long-term life plan.
“Into the Badlands” has been on air for only one season so we have no ratings track for the show. Overall, it was a hit in its inaugural season, capturing an average 1.57 U.S. household rating, which was good for a 2.18 share. But the directors have their work cut out for them in Season Two given that the show blew out of the starting blocks for its first three episodes, but then hit a ratings wall for the next three. That said, the DVR activity for the show went through the roof in Season One, and by Day 15 the Live+ DVR activity was three-and-a-half times the level of Live-only viewing — a sure sign of viewer interest and engagement:
The baron, Quinn, rules over his poppy fiefdom like an antebellum Southern plantation owner — practically everyone is enslaved by him. (The series, incidentally, is filmed in New Orleans.) And as it turns out, “Into the Badlands” has a strong following south of the Mason-Dixon Line. We ranked all 200+ DMAs and drew a line at the Top 20, which have local TV ratings at least 39% higher than the national U.S. average of 1.57. You can see from the list below that 18 of the 20 DMAs reside in southern states, with more than half of them being Viamedia markets:
Local Cable Advertising
“Into the Badlands” has only one season under its belt, so we have no baseline comparisons to quantify year-over-year sales metrics. The sales datas for Season One, however, are more or less in line with other first-year series we have written about in this space. In all, “Badlands” attracted over 80 inaugural local advertisers across 35 Viamedia markets (nearly one-half of Viamedia’s national footprint.) On average, clients ordered over 5 spots for the first season which encompassed a total of only six episodes.
(Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
In terms of local cable advertising categories, Automotive represents more than half of all investments in “Badlands” (54%) which doesn’t leave a lot of room for the 25+ categories we track. The second highest one (Entertainment & Travel) at 10% share is about four percentage points higher than what we normally see for this category company-wide:
On to Season Two
For better or worse, AMC has created several series that have raised the violence quotient far beyond the standard TV equation of past generations. “Into the Badlands” follows closely in the footsteps of “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” – programs well known for their heightened level of blood and gore. What remains to be seen is whether or not “Badlands” can raise its dramatic narrative to the level of these two hit series which have collected enough hardware to fill several trophy cases. Which is not to say “Badlands” is missing a narrative. There is, for example, a rival baron to Quinn – the Baroness Minerva (played by the English actress, Emily Beecham), who is queen of the oil fields and looking to move in on Quinn’s drug turf. There’s also the mysterious M.K. (played by the actor Aramis Knight) who harbors dark, supernatural powers that the Baroness would like to possess. And there is Quinn’s highly dysfunctional family made all the more so by Quinn’s lust for power and domination. But what remains to be seen: Can “Into the Badlands” generate a more compelling narrative in Season Two with greater character depth, or will it remain what is essentially a Kung Fu slugfest with serious plot lines a secondary consideration? Stay tuned.
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP Media Research, Viamedia