I wonder if the novelist, Sara Shepard, had Sir Walter Scott in mind when she set out to write her young-adult series, “Pretty Little Liars”, which ABC Family has turned into an original cable hit TV show:
Oh what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive! “Marmion” (1808); by Sir Walter Scott
It would take more space than I have allotted to recount all the lies and deceptions that have been told through the first four and a half seasons of “Pretty Little Liars”, but perhaps a bare bones introduction will suffice.
Set in the fictional town of Rosewood, PA, a clique of four young girls breaks apart with the disappearance of their leader, Alison DiLaurentis, and when they begin to receive threatening letters from the mysterious “A”, who promises to reveal all their dirty little secrets (and there are many), their entire world is turned upside down. Only Alison would be familiar with such intimate (and salacious) details of their lives, so the four girls naturally assume that their former leader has set about to expose them — that is, until Alison DiLaurentis turns up dead… or is she really dead?
And that’s just for starters.
Now in its fifth season, Pretty Little Liars has a rather unique scheduling pattern, with each new season starting out with roughly a dozen episodes in the summer (June – August); then a three to four month hiatus; and then a continuation of the season with another dozen episodes that air the following January – March.
But whatever the program schedulers are doing, it’s working! Over the past two summers, Pretty Little Liars has been a model of consistency, achieving an average 1.0 U.S. HH Rating and hardly deviating at all (save for the season premiere) in ratings and shares from one episode to the next:
Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak TV Essentials Data (Telecast Summary Report) for ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” for the 2013 and 2014 summer episodes from Seasons Four & Five. Excludes all repeat and special episodes.
As the ownership of ABC Family has changed over the years, the network has undergone several transformations, starting as CBN (The Christian Broadcasting Network) in the late 1970s; morphing into FOX Family (late 1990s); and now, today, a subsidiary of the Disney-ABC television group. In its early years with The Walt Disney Company, ABC Family had its ups and downs, but it’s currently a Top 25 cable network with the help of original scripted content that attracts young females, and there’s no better example than the highly successful Pretty Little Liars. With the five leading stars of the show all young women, it comes as no surprise that the series skews “female”. Less well known is the fact that Pretty Little Liars also attracts a very upscale audience. For example, ratings against households with an income of $250,000+ are 40% higher than the average household rating (i.e. 1.62 v 1.16):
Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak TV Essentials Data (Telecast Series Demographics) for ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” across the first 3 episodes that originally aired in June, 2014.
A successful, high profile series (with an upscale skew to boot) is very attractive to advertisers, and based on our internal billing records we have seen significant interest in the show. In confining our analysis across those markets that exhibited advertising over the past two seasons, we have seen a 32% increase in local advertising, as well as a 12% growth in the number of local cable advertisers:
Source: Viamedia analysis of B.I.G. internal database (“Sports & High Profile Tracker”) across the 21 markets that exhibited local cable advertising on “Pretty Little Liars” during the 2013 and 2014 summer episodes from Seasons Four & Five.
As is often the case with highly popular cable shows, we find that the largest advertising category for Pretty Little Liars is comprised of other cable networks seeking to attract coveted viewers to their own programming:
Source: Viamedia analysis of B.I.G. internal database (“Sports & High Profile Tracker”) for any and all local cable advertisers who invested in “Pretty Little Liars” during the 2013 and 2014 summer episodes from Seasons Four & Five across any and all markets.
The first half of Season 5 ended this past August 26th with the episode, “Taking This One to the Grave.” The entire summer was comprised of one deceit wrapped around another fueled by murder, adultery, drug abuse… you name it. Add to that the reappearance of Alison DiLaurentis, who returns from the dead with a string of improbable truths about where she has been these past few years, and you have all the hooks of a thrilling drama that promises to reel in viewers once again when Season 5 continues in the New Year.
– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia