With the teen market growing expansively, many networks dedicate air time to shows for the 12-24 year-old crowd (Teen Nick, MTV, CW, etc.). However, most of the talk seems to center around CW shows like Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and the new 90210.
While these successful CW shows bring in viewers and controversy, the channel that beats its competitors and dominates the ratings wars may be a channel you never thought of: ABC Family.
Formerly Fox Family (and before that The Family Channel and before that The Christian Broadcasting Network Family Channel), ABC Family has become the go-to channel for many teen drama addicts. Part of the success could be that it is co-owned by Disney, which has mastered the tween market. However, ABC Family doesn’t show Disney Channel shows, aside from the occasional Boy Meets World and Sister, Sister (which are two AMAZING teen shows). ABC Family stands against the competition with its own original programming.
Maybe you’ve heard of their shows – The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Make It or Break It, 10 Things I Hate About You, Lincoln Heights, Ruby & the Rockits, and Greek. Ring any bells?
The Secret Life, which started as the story of one teen’s unplanned pregnancy after losing her virginity this one time at band camp (how very American Pie of her), quickly broke records for the network. With the 2008 premiere The Secret Life became the most watched show on ABC Family, leading the network to find more teen scripted shows. It’s Season 1 finale beat out Gossip Girl. With it’s Season 2 premiere The Secret Life became ABC Family’s most-watched telecast of all time and cable’s number 1 scripted premiere for the season. It regularly ranks number 1 at 8 o’clock and with female viewers (teens, adults, 18-34).
Make It or Break It, which follows teen gymnasts with Olympic aspirations, has been another ABC Family success. It airs after the Secret Life at 9 p.m. on Mondays. Make It or Break It gave ABC Family its second-best series ratings ever, behind The Secret Life.
Greek, the story of college students in fraternities and sororities at a fictional university, has been the network’s longest running show. It’s also been one of it’s most successful. Recently renewed for a fourth season, and rounding out ABC Family’s Monday night block, Greek‘s viewership has grown in double digits, including a +22% increase in the 18-34 demographic.
Why are these shows so successful?
It’s hard to say. Anyone who’s ever watched an episode of The Secret Life or Make It or Break It aren’t tuning in for twisted plots. These shows are somewhat predictable (especially Season 1 of the Secret Life). The acting isn’t fantastic either. The Secret Life did, however, start the teen pregnancy on TV craze, acknowledging a topic that most wanted to ignore. And in the case of Make It or Break It, it’s funny TV.
There’s a certain Bring It On meets Stick It meets Save the Last Dance quality to the show. And that keeps it fun, no matter how unrealistic it is that a girl, who fractured her spine so severely that further competition risks paralysis, goes to prom without a back brace and brings her gymnast friends who don’t go to that school and subsequently run into every major and minor character on the show. (What kind of a school are they running here?)
Greek has the best writing by far. It’s fast and funny. And those who have been in frats and sororities agree that it’s a funny, though accurate, representation of college life and the silly and serious antics of students.
ABC Family is hoping to keep up their numbers with the addition of two new shows, adapted from Young Adult novels, Huge and Pretty Little Liars.
Huge is about teens and counselors at a weight loss camp as, “they look beneath the surface to discover their true selves and the truth about each other.” (So basically, the Breakfast Club meets Heavy Weights, minus Ben Stiller. Yawn.)
Pretty Little Liars is about four estranged friends who reunite after their “queen” goes missing and an anonymous source threatens to spill their secrets. (Now that sounds interesting! Watch out GG! It’s like Gossip Girl meets Desperate Housewives!)
ABC Family is making some serious moves to own the teen market. And with CW shows like Gossip Girl, Melrose Place, and One Tree Hill losing, or having already lost, steam, ABC Family is like the formerly Christian, now teen, little engine that could.
Do you watch ABC Family shows? Better than the CW?