TV Upfront

What Watchlist Data Reveals About the Season's New Dramas

A Look Into the Website's Crystal Ball

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Since last summer Ad Age has had an editorial partnership with focused on its Watchlist, a customizable entertainment guide that lets users make a list of their favorite shows, actors, etc. We're interested in Watchlist because, thanks to the power of crowdsourcing, it has predictive powers: For several of the past TV seasons, 8 of the Top 10 most Watchlist-ed new shows were picked up for full seasons -- including last fall.

We think of the Watchlist community as a massive focus group of informed and committed TV viewers. When we started this partnership, the number of Watchlists created by visitors and users of the mobile apps had just topped half a million; today, the total is 1.1 million.

The chart shown here lists the 10 most-added new fall dramas announced during the upfronts. So keep in mind that Watchlist users are, essentially, publicly expressing hope -- that these shows will live up to hype (or at least be as good as their trailers) -- as well as an intent to watch. As Editor-in-Chief Mickey O'Connor explains: "Before viewers are able to learn every nuance of every new show, they latch on to the familiar -- whether it be an actor, the source material or even the production company. That's what we're seeing at this stage of the game on the list of new fall shows most added to Watchlists."

Stay tuned tomorrow for our chart showing the 10 most-added new fall comedies.

Meanwhile, a bit more context:

  • "Nine of the Top 10 drama picks have some supernatural or sci-fi/fantasy element," says O'Connor. "What was once genre is now the Zeitgeist."
  • Speaking of which, see my colleague Jeanine Poggi's recent report about the CW's fall schedule -- and TV's disappearing "normal teen."
  • O'Connor adds: "You know how when a movie does really well on its opening weekend, the studio will almost immediately announce a sequel? TV is kind of like that too." To wit: "'Buffy' god Joss Whedon made 'The Avengers' a box-office blockbuster, and now ABC is hoping that Whedon's 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' TV series, in which Clark Gregg reprises his film role of Agent Coulson, will duplicate its success. Wait a minute -- didn't Agent Coulson die in the movie? Yes, but this is TV."
  • "Technically, Fox's 'Almost Human' is not a sequel or reboot, but its pedigree -- it's from the folks who brought you 'Fringe' -- and similarly futuristic subject matter -- human cops are partnered with humanoid robots -- guarantee that the passionate online 'Fringe' fan base has already committed to it," says O'Connor.
  • As for the last show to make it onto our drama chart in the No. 10 spot, O'Connor explains: "A spin-off of 2009's breakout hit 'The Vampire Diaries,' the CW's highest-rated series, was perhaps a no-brainer, but 'The Originals' arrives at a moment when the network is transforming itself from the home of the young female-skewing teen soaps to something definitively more male."

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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