Babies switched at birth has a long literary tradition in American, going back at least to the end of the 19th Century when Mark Twain penned, “Pudd’nhead Wilson” – the story of a mixed-race slave who swaps her infant child with that of her owner.
In modern times, there have been several variations on the “switched babies” theme, including the 1991 film, “Switched at Birth”, based on the true story of newborns Arlena Twigg and Kimberly Mays, and the subsequent lawsuit pursued by the Twiggs to regain custody of their real daughter.
Twenty years later, ABC Family premiered its multi-award winning, young adult drama series of the same name, “Switched at Birth” — the story of two teenage girls, from very different economic circumstances, who were (in a hospital snafu) inadvertently handed over to the wrong parents.
ABC Family’s version unfolds in a school lab experiment when well-to-do Bay Kennish (played by the actress, Vanessa Marano) discovers that her blood type is incompatible with that of her parents. It turns out that Bay’s real mother, Regina Vasquez (played by the actress Constance Marie), is from the ‘other side of the tracks’ raising her “daughter”, Daphne Vasquez (played by the actress, Katie Leclerc) — a child she mistakenly thinks is her very own.
Well, wait… there’s more.
Daphne, whose real biological parents are John and Kathryn Kennish, has not only been short-changed by the lower economic circumstances she was mistakenly placed in, but also by the fact that she contracted meningitis as a young girl which left her with a severe hearing impairment. Indeed, one of the unique aspects of “Switched at Birth” is the significant status given to mainstream characters acting in American Sign Language.
Switched at Birth” also makes a bit of a “switch” when it comes to scheduling as half the episodes air in the winter months, then the show goes into hibernation for three months, re-emerging for another dozen episodes starting in June. I’m not sure that makes for the optimal scheduling pattern, but as can be seen in the chart below, the net effect is a consistent pattern in ratings and shares during wintertime, and then a significant jump up in average rating (+33%) and share (+26%) in the summertime:
Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak TV Essentials Data (Telecast Summary Report) for ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth” for Season 3 (11 winter episodes 1/13 – 3/24 & 10 summer episodes 6/16 – 8/18/2014). Average ratings and shares for winter and summer episodes are Viamedia time-duration weighted estimates for new “Switched at Birth” airings only (no repeats). Ratings & Shares are Live-only. (Excludes special episode that aired on 12/8/2014.)
But whether winter or summer, “Switched at Birth” has delivered a consistent and sizable audience over the past two seasons (2013 & 2014):
Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak TV Essentials Data (Telecast Summary Report) for ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth” for Season 2 (21 episodes that ran from 1/7 – 8/19/2013) and Season 3 (22 episodes that ran from 1/13 – 8/18/2014, plus year-end special that ran on 12/8/2014.) Average ratings and shares are Viamedia time-duration weighted estimates for new “Switched at Birth” airings only (no repeats). Ratings & Shares are Live-only.
Strong Local Cable Advertising Growth
In looking at our internal billing records, we found very strong local cable advertising growth between Season 2 and 3, +28% across all the markets that exhibited adverting over the past two seasons. Practically all of that increase is attributable to advertisers purchasing additional 30-second spots on “Switched at Birth”; indeed (on average), the typical advertiser purchased close to 4 additional spots on the show in 2014 (vs 2013).
Source: Viamedia analysis of B.I.G. internal database (“Sports & High Profile Tracker”) across the 20 markets that exhibited local cable advertising on “Switched at Birth” during Season 2 (2013) & Season 4 (2014).
As is the case with another ABC Family favorite, “Pretty Little Liars”, “Switched at Birth” attracts the sort of audience that other networks find quite appealing, and so it comes as no surprise that five out of the Top 10 advertisers are either cable or broadcast networks which in aggregate comprise nearly 50% of all local cable advertising dollars:
Source: Viamedia analysis of B.I.G. internal database (“Sports & High Profile Tracker”) for any and all local cable advertisers who invested in ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth” for Season 2 (January – August, 2013) & Season 3 (January – December, 2014) across any and all markets.
Season 4 (2015)
Last August, it was announced that “Switched at Birth” would return for a 4th Season, which just kicked off with its premiere episode on January 6th. The season gets under way with another “switch” of sorts as Bay takes the rap for a vandalism charge against Daphne. The fallout spins the story off in a new direction for two very different families that came together under one roof for the sake of their biological (and accidental) daughters.
For more information on Viamedia, visit www.viamediatv.com.
– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia