TV Surf Report: Branding In Television — Who’s Succeeding and Who’s Failing in 2017


Santa Monica, CA — These days, it’s All About Your Brand. For Networks, this is a challenge to define itself to not only its audience, but also to advertisers seeking to reach a specific audience and to creatives who seek to do business with the network.

Also, are your viewers engaged on Social Media and talking about your series? That’s important in today’s crowded landscape:

Buzz. Word of Mouth. Free Advertising.

Some Networks, Cable Channels, and Streaming Services are better than others when it comes to Branding. There are brain trusts at each company desperately trying to solve this Marketing/Advertising Puzzle which sometimes seems more like the Riddle of the Sphinx:

Dear God, What’s Our Effing Brand?????

Here’s a look at The Players, Their Signature Series, Demos and level of Social Media Engagement:

  The Broadcast Networks

(ranked in order of Most Successful Brand):

  1. The CW
  2. CBS
  3. NBC
  4. FOX
  5. ABC


ABC boasts the top-rated new drama series of the season: The Good Doctor in addition to its diverse lineup of half-hour comedies (Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Modern Family), reality programming (DWTS, Shark Tank) and its aging TGIT Shonda Rhimes franchise that includes veteran Grey’s Anatomy, the series finale season of Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder.  What is its Brand though? Am guessing it’s We Love Diverse Family Programming!  Problematic because I am unsure.

  • Demo: 18–49
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 456k (should be stronger). The Good Doctor has 34.6k followers while Grey’s Anatomy has 4.18 million!
  • Signature Series:  Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Shark Tank
  • Notable Development: A reboot of American Idol looks solid, but a questionable re-boot of Roseanne evokes strong feelings of anxiety. Larry Wilmore has a  Super Hero Middle Eastern Family Comedy Mash Up , which seems to hit a lot of boxes, Brand-wise. We shall see! Meanwhile, Shonda Rhimes has a Firefighting spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy in production. She is very engaged on Social Media and is one of many Creators who live-tweet during episodes.



CBS markets itself as America’s Most Watched Network.  That’s a Brand, or is it? From shows like The Big Bang Theory to spinoff Sheldon, Mom, Criminal Minds, Madam Secretary, 60 Minutes, and Football, CBS has everyone covered. It’s demo audience is traditionally older-skewing so the challenge is to create programming that will draw in younger viewers. CBS’ audience is also more rural.

  • Demo: 18-Dead;
  • Signature Series:  The Big Bang Theory, 60 Minutes, Survivor
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 940k. The Big Bang Theory 4.71m followers while 60 Minutes has only 926k. Star Trek: Discovery which airs on CBS All Access has a mere 73.1k followers.
  • Notable Development: A re-boot of Magnum, P.I. and a remake of L.A. Confidential



NBC is desperately trying to reclaim its once uber-successful Must-See TV brand by taking a gamble by re-booting Will & Grace, once a Thursday night staple.  The gamble paid off, and now The Peacock has something else to sqawk about besides its Emmy nominated monster hit drama, This Is Us. Now, if it could only launch another successful comedy.

  • Demo: 18-49
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 1.74 million; Interestingly, NBC has the largest following on Twitter among the Big Four (edging FOX and nearly double of CBS) This Is Us has 240k while The Voice boasts 5.2m followers.
  • Signature Series: The Voice, This Is Us, Saturday Night Live keep NBC relevant and popular amongst younger, urban viewers.
  • Notable Development: An ill-advised reboot of The Munsters and Miami Vice; and, a remake of Blue Crush, which could work. Girls Surf!



FOX is a network that used to have an Edgy Brand (younger, raunchy comedies and young adult dramas that appealed to the 18-34 demo), but now it’s grown into an older netlet that’s happy with 18-49 aged viewers who have yet to tire of The Simpsons or The X-Files.  Throw in Empire for some diversity.  Fox still has a “We’re younger than The Big Three” kinda aura about it, but it’s not really true.  The Gifted is this season’s biggest gamble trying to ride the Marvel Studio and X-Men gravy train.

  • Demo: 18-49
  • Signature Series: The Simpsons, The X-Files, Empire
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 1.23m; The Simpsons has 929k followers while The X-Files has only 276k. Meanwhile, Empire 1.48 million followers. Meanwhile, The Gifted has a mere 26.7k followers. Not a good sign.
  • Notable Development: The Passage adaptation; a reboot of Kung Fu and a remake of True Lies. Ho hum.



The CW has The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Super Heroes. DC Comics.

This netlet very much has a Brand of Youth Appeal. Toss in Riverdale, Jane the Virgin, and My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and it’s clear The CW also has some Edge, as well. Supernatural has to end at some point. Dynasty looks like a big Miss, though. Advertisers know who they are pitching to, which is quite valuable, Brand-wise.

  • Demo: 12-34 male and female.
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 857k (strong). The Flash boasts 1.64 million, Arrow has 2.11 million followers, and Riverdale has 660k.
  • Notable Development: Black Lightning, a black Super Hero series from DC. A re-boot of Roswell with a notable Immigration Theme; a Sabrina the Teenage Witch spinoff from RiverdaleThe Wayward Sisters, a spinoff from Supernatural; and, It’s The End of the World As We Know It adaptation with Rob Thomas (I-Zombie) exec producing. Alien Invasion Dramas, always worth a shot, yes? The CW Has Aliens On Its Mind


N E X T   U P:

Pay Cable and Basic Cable.


About Surfing Hollywood

Steve La Rue is an internationally recognized leader in Film & Television with 20+ years experience as a Development Executive championing such series as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape. He writes, blogs, and consults on All Things Entertainment from his home at the beach in Santa Monica, CA, where he balances his life by surfing every damn day.
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